New Tucson antibody trial aims to prevent COVID spread

Posted at 3:52 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 15:45:20-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Rebounding from the pandemic may not fully happen without a proven way to stop COVID-19.

An exciting new antibody trial is about to begin in Tucson, and it hopes to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

"This work is critical to finding a cure or prevention for COVID," said Dr. Anita Kohli. "We have to do that if we're going to get back to life as we know it."

Dr. Kohli is the Director of Clinical Research at AZ Clinical Trials in Tucson. She and her team are working on a pair of trials.

The first trial is already underway, and it's open to anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19, but who has not been hospitalized.

Working with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Kohli and her team are giving these patients an antibody treatment in hopes of keeping them out of the hospital.

"These antibodies target that interaction," explained Kohli. "Hopefully prevent more or further infection. Hopefully, make people better if we can block that interaction."

They have eight people infected with COVID-19 in the "Monoclonal Antibody" trial here in Tucson. They have room for more.

Each patient is given a single infusion and then monitored for 30 days.

"We're able to give high doses of the Cover-specific antibodies to people," Kohli said from her Tucson clinic. "We're not able to do that with convalescent plasma. That's what makes this a much more promising therapeutic."

Dr. Kohli and her team are about to begin a second trial, which could go a long way in preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.

Regeneron just signed a $450 million federal contract to develop antibodies as a COVID-19 prevention. It's part of the government's "Operation Warp Speed" program.

The trials in Tucson will begin within a week.

"For the prophylaxis studies, those are for people who are living with people who are COVID positive. These are studies of the same medications to see if we can prevent infection in them."

Dr. Kohli is a board-certified infectious disease physician who trained with Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health.

She says it's been exciting both personally and professionally to work on such a meaningful project, especially in one of the nation's COVID hot spots.

"That's our goal to bring cutting-edge therapeutics here to Tucson, with each iteration of what we feel are the most promising of agents."