Saturday, March 21, 2020

The South Rises to Combat the Coronavirus

University of Alabama at Birmingham
Researchers from all over the world are scrambling to find a way to fight the highly infectious coronavirus that first appeared in China and has spread internationally with more than 300,000 cases.
In Birmingham, Alabama - far away from epicenters of the outbreak - the medical community led by the University of Alabama and science research organization Southern Research have joined the race in developing coronavirus treatments.
Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has been at the forefront of developing a drug, remdesivir, that's now being used to treat select infected patients in the U.S. and China.
The university, under a five-year, $37.5 million grant in a public and private partnership with several academic institutions and Silicon Valley-based biotech company Gilead Sciences, has been working to jointly study and develop treatments for high-priority infectious diseases such as the coronaviruses that caused SARS, MERS and the novel COVID-19.
Drug trials of remdesivir on select patients in China with COVID-19 showed promising results. Working with the World Health Organization, the Chinese government and Gilead Sciences, clinical trials are underway in both China and the U.S. to determine whether remdesivir is both safe and effective in treating the novel coronavirus.  It's an indication that cross-border collaboration could stop the outbreak. 
New vaccine from Southern resource
Meanwhile, Birmingham's Southern Research group will begin testing potential vaccines against coronavirus in collaboration with Tonix Pharmaceuticals, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company in New York.
The new vaccine, TNX-1800, based on proprietary research at Tonix, was initially developed to prevent smallpox but has proven to effective in combating other types of infectious diseases.
So far, there aren't any vaccines to protect against the highly infectious COVID-19, which causes serious complications and has led to significant rates of mortality.
The drug development division of the non-profit Southern Research, is a leader in infectious disease research and possible therapeutics for emerging biological threats, with more than 400 scientists and engineers across four divisions that have helped to win the war against cancer and fight HIV. 
Tests are also underway in Seattle for a vaccine developed by the NIH and biotech company Moderna Inc. in Massachusetts. See related post on China's CanSio Biologics, which is also carrying out R&D for a new coronavirus vaccine.