Deaths due to coronavirus COVID-19 infection primarily occur in patients transferred to the ICU.
These patients have or develop severe respiratory distress, respiratory failure and full blown Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) that occurs in patients with severe lung inflammation, low levels of oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia) and respiratory failure that requires mechanical ventilation as a life-saving intervention. Unfortunately, the ventilator contributes to lung inflammation and ARDS mortality.
University of Arizona College of Medicine Professor Doctor Joe Garcia said the build up of inflammation is the main problem.
"The inflammation that’s created by the virus infection, and also created by the ventilator inflammation, starts to now damage other organs, like your kidneys and your heart and your gut and your liver and that is what patients with ADRS die from. They die from the failure of these other organs," Dr. Garcia said.
Trauma, sepsis and bacterial and viral pneumonias are common causes of ARDS. There were dramatic increases in virally induced ARDS cases during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
He said half a million people each year get ARDS in the ICU and one third of the patients will die.
There are no FDA–approved treatments for ARDS or for ARDS-inducing stimuli such as COVID-19.
“I’m very passionate about trying to get an drug to the ICU that can really help these patients," Dr. Garcia said. "The pandemic has been shining a bright light on an unmet need we’ve had for a while.”
Dr. Garcia and his team at Aqualung Therapeutics are developing a novel, anti-inflammatory platform, which includes the humanized monoclonal antibody, ALT-100 to treat serious “unchecked inflammation’.
The initial application for ALT-100 aims to reduce the mortality of (ARDS) and Ventilator-Induced Lung Injury (VILI). This offers a potential option in the treatment of COVID-19.
The Company has begun required testing as part of the Investigational New Drug (IND) regulatory package for the FDA.
In the meantime, Dr. Garcia said he wants everyone to do what they can to stay safe.
"It takes a nation to kind of focus on this issue, it’s big," Dr. Garcia said.