On Friday, July 10, a day-long virtual conference on COVID-19 and research underway into how to treat the disease kicks off at 7:30 a.m., tacked on to the end of the annual International AIDS Conference which was supposed to be taking place — physically — in San Francisco.
As co-chair of the AIDS Conference, UCSF professor Dr. Monica Gandhi, tells the Chronicle, "We had the AIDS 2020 platform and we decided two months ago that not only did we have to make it virtual, but it would be crazy not to have a COVID meeting at the same time."
So, after infectious disease experts from around the globe spent the last several days hearing presentations and participating in panels about the latest in HIV/AIDS research, they will spend Friday doing the same with SARS CoV-2, beginning with a session with Dr. Anthony Fauci and White House pandemic response coordinator Dr. Deborah Brix. The virtual conference runs from the morning, Pacific Time, until after midnight, with Bill Gates giving a presentation at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. (See the schedule here.)
The International AIDS Conference hadn't taken place in San Francisco — an original nexus of the AIDS epidemic — for 30 years. And many of the same disease researchers at UCSF who have spent their careers seeking treatments and a cure for HIV are also applying their skills to the coronavirus fight.
One UCSF expert, systems biologist Nevan Krogan, has been leading an international team in studying who the coronavirus replicates itself using human cells, with a view toward seeking existing drugs and compounds to stop it. Dr. Krogan won't be presenting at tomorrow's conference, but it's possible one of the papers the team has written will be among the 140 being presented.
Krogan's team just two weeks ago published new findings about how the virus causes human cells to grow filopedia, or multiple arms, which then become like the virus's own spikes dotted with virus particles — creating a second means for spreading infection.
Two of the drugs that will be discussed in Friday's conference, as the Chronicle explains, are the the hepatitis C drugs sofosbuvir and daclatsvir, which were tested on a group of hospitalized patients in Iran. Like Gilead's antiviral drug remdesivir, the two-drug cocktail showed some promise in speeding the recovery of patients and possibly decreasing the mortality of the virus as well.
Dr. Fauci, in a Thursday press briefing ahead of his conference appearance Friday morning, reiterated what he has said before about the coronavirus being a "worst nightmare" scenario on a number of levels — partly because of how efficient it is in spreading.
Also, Fauci added, public health efforts have only been "variably successful," and that is partly to blame for the capriciousness of this particular virus.
"I’ve never seen a virus in which you have 20 percent to 40 percent of individuals who have no symptoms at all, to individuals who get mild illness, to people who are confined to beds at home for weeks with multiple post-viral symptoms, to some who require hospitalization, intensive care, ventilation, to death," Fauci said. "This is completely unique in what we’ve experienced."