The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is taking part in clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a treatment for people with severe cases COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus, as well as a vaccine to help protect against the virus.
UAB was selected by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to examine the drug remdesivir on hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 as part of a phase 3 study. Remdesivir is an experimental medicine developed by Gilead Sciences. UAB is one of up to 75 sites around the world testing the drug. Paul Goepfert, M.D., professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Infectious Diseases, will head up UAB’s effort.
“Remdesivir worked well in the test tube and animal models against a close relative of COVID-19,” he said. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to rapidly determine whether this drug will help treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19 here at UAB.”
UAB is also collaborating with biopharmaceutical company Altimmune, Inc. for preclinical testing of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers will investigate the vaccine in mice before Altimmune launches Phase 1 safety and immunogenicity trials in human patients later this year.
The vaccine, called AdCOVID, was developed specifically in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The company has previous experience developing vaccines for other respiratory pathogens, including a seasonal and pandemic flu vaccine and a vaccine for the inhalation of anthrax, currently under development with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Six UAB labs will work together on the vaccine study. “This project will be our highest priority for the group in the next few months as the goal is to get the data to Altimmune as rapidly as possible, so that they will use the information gained from the preclinical study to design their clinical trial in people,” said Frances E. Lund, the Charles H. McCauley Professor and Chair for the UAB Department of Microbiology.