Current on COVID-19: Regeneron Reacts to Trump and Johns Hopkins Makes Progress on COVID

Trump Is Just One Case, Regeneron Says

President Trump has seemingly overcome his COVID-19 symptoms after a weekend of treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which he mainly attributes to his treatment with Regeneron’s experimental drug cocktail REGN-COV2. “It was, like, unbelievable. I felt good immediately,” Trump said on October 7th in a tweeted video. “I call that a cure.” With a presidential endorsement, the drugmaker is expected to receive FDA emergency use authorization. However, Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer was quick to explain that the president’s case does not prove that REGN-COV2 is a cure.

“The president’s case is a case of one, and that’s what we call a case report, and it is evidence of what’s happening, but it’s kind of the weakest evidence that you can get,” Schleifer said in an interview on CBS. He also explained that the treatment promotes immunity, which means it should fight the virus for months after it is administered. Eli Lilly is developing a drug of similar design.

Though the president presents risk factors being 74 and overweight, he recovered fairly quickly, making an interesting case for the drug. However, we do not know if Trump is completely cured yet, nor do we know if his recovery had anything to do with his drug treatments, since many have recovered from coronavirus without medicine. The president was also treated with Gilead’s emergency authorization drug remdesivir, an antiviral that has shortened recovery times for some COVID-19 patients, as well as steroids and Vitamin D to boost his immune system.

Meanwhile, former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb warns that even if Regeneron works and is cleared for distribution, they will not be able to scale up manufacturing to meet demand for this year. The company has 50,000 doses stocked and is working towards manufacturing 300,000, but Dr. Gottlieb predicts that the U.S. will need between 300,000 and 400,000 antibody treatment courses each month to keep up with a potentially difficult fall and winter.

Another Step Toward Cracking the COVID Code

SARS-CoV2 creates a number of unfamiliar effects within our bodies that have delayed researchers from finding an effective treatment and vaccine. Many patients experience dangerous inflammation due to the fact that the virus stimulates our own immune systems to attack its healthy cells. Johns Hopkins researchers have come close to understanding how. Two proteins, factor H and D, complement each other when regulating the immune system and clearing out pathogens. COVID-19’s infamous spike protein overstimulates factor D, preventing factor H from regulating its inflammatory response. Blocking factor D can prevent this, the researchers say.

“[SARS-CoV2] activates a cascading series of biological reactions—what we call the alternative pathway of complement,” senior author of the study Robert Brodsky, MD, Director of the Hematology Division at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “The goal of our study was to discover how the virus activates this pathway and to find a way to inhibit it before the damage happens.”

The researchers also found that SARS-CoV-2 blocks factor H from binding to cells, so they fall victim to the immune attack. They tested a small-molecule factor D inhibitor, ACH-145951, in cells and found positive results. Factor D inhibitors are currently in development by Alexion, but so far it has only launched a Phase 3 trial of a different complement-directed drug, Ultomiris, in severe COVID-19 patients in April.

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