A San Francisco doctor known for his research into a universal flu vaccine says that his lab has a potential treatment in the works for COVID-19 using SARS antibodies. If all goes well and human trials of the antibody treatment can occur quickly, he says it could be ready for a public rollout by September — and it could also serve as a temporary vaccine as well.
Dr. Jacob Glanville is the founder and CEO of biotech firm Distributed Bio, and a Scientific Advisory Board member for UCSF's biotechnology program, and he was featured on the Netflix documentary Pandemic — which, somewhat uncannily, was released just a few weeks before the coronavirus officially became a pandemic, and before it was seen as a worldwide threat.
Clearly media savvy, Glanville announced on Twitter this week that he already had a promising treatment for COVID-19 using convalescent plasma from SARS patients — mutating antibodies from SARS to fight the coronavirus. He said his lab, over nine weeks, had "developed extremely potent picomolar antibodies" for the virus, and he went on Good Morning America Friday to discuss the treatment. (It should be noted that while Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed support for this line of research, he also threw some shade in Glanville's direction earlier this week saying that this use of convalescent plasma is "an old concept" and he was unsurprised that multiple researchers were pursuing it.)
Anti-#COVID19 #therapeutic update. After 9 weeks we have generated extremely potent picomolar antibodies that block known #neutralizing #ACE2 #epitopes, blocking the novel #coronavirus from infecting human cells. Read more at https://t.co/Fht9buIZkU. pic.twitter.com/2v7NMk7kyZ— Dr. Jacob Glanville (@CurlyJungleJake) April 1, 2020
Doctor who was featured in the Netflix docuseries says he’s working on a possible COVID-19 treatment. @tjholmes reports. @drjashton and @tombossert break down the latest race for treatments and vaccines. https://t.co/NDWoriqaIx pic.twitter.com/uTHNfVecBj— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 3, 2020
As ABC News reports, Glanville says the next step will be to have the military test his company's treatment on live coronavirus, and then accelerated human trials could begin this summer. He further suggests that the antibody treatment could work as a short-term vaccine, inoculating people against the virus for three to six months.
"Our challenge is right now as a race against time to be able to manufacture them quickly enough and distribute them out to people who need them all over the world," Glanville says.
Glanville acknowledges that his is hardly the only company or lab working on treatments. "I think they're at least 50 groups that are all working on this. And that's good. There's only one competitor in the space and that's the virus."
Bay Area-based Gilead Sciences' experimental coronavirus drug, remdesivir, is also in trials around the globe, and has also anecdotally shown promise in helping patients recover. The company began distributing the unapproved drug to U.S. hospitals in a group-based model last week after several weeks of sending doses under a "compassionate use" program. On Thursday, the European Pharmaceutical Review reported that two randomized Phase III trials of remdesivir had begun in coronavirus patients at 15 hospital locations across the UK.
Another publicly discussed treatment for the virus, also unproven and unapproved, using the anti-malarial drug chloroquine, has led to shortages of the drug worldwide.