MUSC tests possible COVID-19 antibody treatment in outpatient trial

July 16, 2020
Scientist working in a Regeneron lab.
A scientist works in a Regeneron Pharmaceuticals lab. Photo provided

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina are pleased to be part of a national clinical trial testing a possible antibody treatment for COVID-19 in people who have been infected with the coronavirus but aren’t sick enough to be in the hospital. MUSC, which won the chance to be part of the study through a competitive process, is the only participating site in South Carolina listed on the trial’s web page.

Amanda Cameron, trial innovation network manager at MUSC, said the study will test a cocktail of two antibodies created by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. “This is so exciting to have a trial for outpatients to hopefully keep them from having to become inpatients. It gives people the opportunity to recover at home,” Cameron said.

Participants will only have to come to MUSC Health in Charleston one time for the study to get an infusion of either the antibody cocktail or a placebo. Then, they head home to recover. The researchers will follow up with phone calls and nurses will come to the participants’ homes to collect nasopharyngeal samples to see how the virus is progressing. The whole thing will take about a month.

Researchers will recruit participants through MUSC’s electronic medical records system and through phone calls to people who test positive for COVID-19. They have to have tested positive within 72 hours and had symptoms for fewer than seven days. People who meet the criteria and were tested somewhere other than MUSC Health can also apply to take part by calling 843-792-3710 or sending an email.

Cameron doesn’t think they’ll have any trouble finding participants for MUSC’s first outpatient COVID trial. “Our previous COVID inpatient studies all enrolled much faster than anticipated because the spread has been so significant.”

Eric Meissner, Ph.D. 
Dr. Eric Meissner

Eric Meissner, M.D., Ph.D., is leading the new trial at MUSC. He said sending in two antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987, is a tactical move. “All viruses have the ability to mutate or to escape antibody pressure. Hitting the virus in two different places with two different antibodies could make it less likely the virus could get around both of them.”

The trial, “Safety, Tolerability and Efficacy of Anti-Spike (S) SARS-CoV-2 Monoclonal Antibodies for the Treatment of Ambulatory Adult Patients With COVID-19,” is one of several studies sponsored by Regeneron testing the antibody cocktail in the fight against COVID-19. MUSC is participating in another one looking at whether the antibodies can prevent or treat COVID-19 in people who don’t have symptoms but who live with patients who have recently gotten sick from the virus.

The cocktail is seen as promising enough for the federal government to sign a $450 million contract with Regeneron through the COVID-fighting Operation Warp Speed program. The funding will pay for making the antibody mix in bulk if Regeneron’s clinical trials succeed and the Food and Drug Administration gives the potential treatment the go-ahead.

The MUSC-based South Carolina Clinical & Translational Research Institute is a key player in the COVID studies. SCTR nurse manager Karen Packard said the program has longstanding research expertise. “We’re poised to take care of anything that comes down the pipeline. To be involved in this kind of research is something that will probably not happen again in our lifetime, we hope. From a scientific and a care point of view, it’s very, very interesting.”

Meissner agreed. “Because there are no FDA-approved medications to treat COVID-19, we feel it’s important to offer our community access to clinical trials that are testing approaches to try to help with this infection.”

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