The race to find a treatment for COVID-19 is in full swing as researchers in labs across the world attempt to unravel the unique properties of this disease, and find ways to neutralize it. To aid in the effort, recovered patients in New Orleans — a national hotspot for infections — are participating in a blood sampling study led by a California biotech firm that hopes to find an FDA-approved treatment for the disease.
Early research has shown promising results from taking plasma from recovered patients (which contains antibodies) and transferring it intravenously into those succumbing to the virus. But San Francisco based biotech company GigaGen wants to create a lab-made alternative which won’t rely on a steady stream of donors.
“We capture the antibodies from the blood cells joining together different DNA sequences, so we’re producing a new protein in the lab,” explained GigaGen CEO David Johnson, a genetic technologist and a former project director at Stanford University’s Human Genome Center. “So, we can take cells from five or six people who’ve recovered from the virus and turn it into millions of drugs which will tackle COVID-19.”
But how did a California biotech company connect with patients in New Orleans? According to the physician and researcher in New Orleans who’s leading the charge, it was fairly serendipitous.