NC Researchers Rolling Out Potential Covid- 19 “Game Changers”

More ground-breaking research from North Carolina 

June 12, 2020 

First Specific COVID-19 Drug Produced in Clayton

Grifols, a global biotherapeutics company, has started production of the first specific Covid-19 drug. The company is producing hyperimmune immunoglobulin, using the blood plasma of patients who have recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus. Plasma is described as the “water” portion of blood. It is rich in proteins. Grifols has identified those proteins which have therapeutic value and has developed a process to separate and purify those proteins for use in medicines. Immunoglobulins are plasma proteins that act like antibodies as part of the body’s defense system. This would not be a vaccine against Covid-19, but a treatment that could ease the symptoms and speed up the recovery time.

Grifols is a leader in the production of immunoglobulins for medicines. The company successfully used the technology to fight other coronavirus pandemics and announced early this year they would apply the same technology to create and test a treatment for COVID-19. The production is part of a collaboration with several U.S. government agencies. The first doses should be ready in July. They will be used in a clinical trial to assess whether the treatment could help stabilize or improve the condition of COVID-19 patients.

Want to Join a COVID-19 Research Trial? Here’s How.

If you want to help uncover some of the mysteries of COVID-19, Burlington based LabCorp can help you make that connection. The company’s Covance drug development business has created COVID-19 Clinical Trial Connect in the U.S.. It’s a website to help people find information about how they can take part in coronavirus research.

“Our goal is to link people interested in these clinical trials with sponsors so that together we may find solutions for this global pandemic,” said Michael Brooks, Covance’s President of Clinical Development and Commercialization Solutions.

Hundreds of COVID-19-related clinical trials are already underway or will begin soon. By using the Clinical Trial Connect site, people can be notified of studies run by Covance for the pharmaceutical industry, as well as those included in, a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies. Patients can register if they’d like to participate. Covance said trial opportunities are diverse and sponsors are recruiting patients who have COVID-19, who may have recovered from the virus, or who may simply have been exposed.

Duke University’s One-Hour Covid-19 Test Could Dramatically Aid World’s Response to Pandemic

Duke University medical students in Singapore are working to create an COVID-19 antibody test that gives results the same day. The research is being done at Duke-NUS Medical School, which is a partnership between Duke and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The test, developed over the last few months, could be available in the United States this summer. It’s called the surrogate virus neutralization test, or cPass. It measures COVID-19 antibodies in patients from a drop of blood. Those neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) are found in the blood serum of COVID-19 patents and are responsible for fighting the viral infection.

There are two factors that make the test unique. The first is that it can be administered without the need of live biological materials, which normally requires special biocontainment facilities and lab procedures and personnel. All of that means results can take less time.

This test is based on inactive genetic material called a pseudovirus and does not include any live biological materials. That means the new test can be conducted in most research or clinical labs. That allows patients to get results in an hour.

"You’re always thinking about better, faster and cheaper,” said Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice Dean of Research at Duke-NUS, and a James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC. “We believe this test could be a “game-changer” in the fight against COVID-19 because it can be used in contact tracing and in determining infection rates and herd immunity.”

—Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci NC, a broadcast and online science series.