Winnipeg researchers’ COVID-19 treatment ready by ‘end of summer’

By | March 21, 2020

WINNIPEG — Researchers in Winnipeg claim they’re close to launching a treatment for COVID-19.

Emergent BioSolutions is creating two COVID-19 treatments out of the University of Manitoba.

The treatments use antibodies that bind with the virus to help the body fight it.

“You think of it as sort of a piece of our immune system that grabs hold of that virus or bacteria and helps us deal with it,” Dr. Laura Saward, the senior vice president and therapeutics business unit head at Emergent BioSolutions.

One treatment uses antibodies from previously infected patients, and the other collects antibodies from vaccinated horses.

The treatments are not vaccines and are to be used as a way to help patients recover or to protect people exposed to the virus in the short-term.

“These are treatments that you’d use as a rescue therapy to help people that are sick with the virus in hospital, as well as a way to use it to prevent infection,” said Saward.

The team has created a number of drugs using this platform and said bringing new drugs, like the COVID-19 treatments, is a familiar process.

“I think everyone is very focused on trying to put all of our best legs and knowledge there on this outbreak to try to limit its impact,” Saward said.

She said the company started focusing on COVID-19 back in January.

A clinical trial of the treatments will be held in about four months.

“What we are targeting with our plasma collection already started, is that we have product available by the end of summer,” said Dr. Saward.

WINNIPEG A RESEARCH HUB

Scientists in Winnipeg have contributed to Ebola, influenza and SARS research in the past.

Winnipeg is home to the International Centre for Infectious Diseases, as well as the National Microbiology Laboratory.

“There’s a long history here, Winnipeg has played a key role in a number of emerging infectious diseases,” said Saward.

“There’s a real base here that we can build off of.”

Saward also noted that the U of M also has a large department of microbiology.

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