Hackensack Meridian Health, a network of New Jersey-based health providers, reached a major milestone in serving as a COVID-19 clinical investigational center—treating 1,000 patients with the latest investigative treatments during the pandemic. From antiviral drugs to immunotherapies, to the potential treatment properties of antibodies in the blood of COVID-19 survivors, the patients have been treated over the course of 10 clinical trials, as well as through compassionate use and expanded use access. The New Jersey provider network has participated in clinical trials, including treatments sponsored from major pharmaceutical companies to investigator-initiated research aimed at turning the tide against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hackensack Research Heroes
During the pandemic and in active hubs such as New Jersey, which tails only New York in total COVID-19 cases and deaths, research heroes emerged from Hackensack Meridian Health, powered not only by the lead principal investigators and other physicians, but nurses, coordinators and administrative personnel working “round-the-clock” to not only treat patients during this horrific pandemic but also lead state-of-the-art research to help save more lives and contribute to medicine.
Hackensack Meridian Health, a network of providers including academic medical centers, acute care facilities and research hospitals, employ all manner of experts across multiple therapeutic fields and disciplines; many of these specialists rose to the challenge contributing the right insight at the right time to help contribute to reacting to an unprecedented modern public health crisis.
Commenting on these efforts Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, chief executive officer of the health system, commented, “We are proud of the dynamic research and clinical impact we are achieving in our health network.” Garrett continued “Our physicians and scientists are propelling us as we continue to be a progressive leader of positive change amid this pandemic.”
And after commenting himself on the pride of the research effort—done so in incredibly difficult conditions—the New Jersey-based health network’s chief of research contributed, “We are working hard to evaluate these treatments as the cases continue to present at our health network.”
Leadership at Hackensack Meridian Health expect the number of research patients only to grow in the coming days and weeks as the numbers of cases in the United States continues to rise. In a recent press release, the health network offered a summary of some important clinical trials it supports as a clinical investigational site. The trials include:
- CYNK-001. The CYNK-001 immunotherapy made by Celularity, Inc. is aimed at bolstering patients’ immune response, and is approved in cancer applications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also recently authorized the therapy as an investigational new drug for use in adult COVID-19 patients, amid the spreading pandemic. John Theurer Cancer Center will be the first site in the Phase I/II clinical trial, which will assess its effectiveness in treating infected patients. Hackensack Meridian Health is the first to test this therapy for COVID-19.
- Remdesivir. An antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences to respond to Ebola and Marburg viruses, the therapy is currently being investigated at five sites: Hackensack University Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, JFK Medical Center, Bayshore Medical Center, and Ocean Medical Center (totaling three trials). HUMC is conducting two Phase III trials, one evaluating the safety and effectiveness in severe COVID-19 cases, and the other in moderate cases as compared to standard of care. JFK, Jersey Shore, Bayshore, and Ocean are conducting an expanded access treatment protocol in the hospital for the coronavirus cases. Additionally, across the network compassionate use of the drug is allowed in pediatric and pregnant cases.
- Acalabrutinib. A medicine approved to treat mantle cell lymphoma, a kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and made by AstraZeneca is also being tested. Hackensack Meridian Health is the first to test this kinase inhibitor.
- Sarilumab. A monoclonal antibody by Regeneron intended for arthritis treatments is being tested. The adaptive, Phase II/III, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing the efficacy and safety of the treatment in COVID-19 patients is open and enrolling at Hackensack University Medical Center, JFK Medical Center, and Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
- Tocilizumab. An immunosuppressive drug used to treat arthritis manufactured by Genentech. The trial at HMH enrolled patients at Hackensack University Medical Center.
- Hydroxychloroquine. The immunosuppressive drug used to treat and prevent malaria was investigated at JFK Medical Center as a COVID-19 preventative among high-risk healthcare workers. Patients are no longer being enrolled in this trial.
- Convalescent plasma. Hackensack. HUMC is recruiting recovered and recovering COVID-19 patients to test their blood for antibodies in response to the virus. Patients with promising titers of antibodies will be asked to donate plasma, which may be helpful for sick COVID-19 patients. This trial is unique to HUMC.
- Convalescent plasma – network-wide. Sites across the Hackensack Meridian Health network are taking part in the FDA/Red Cross-led National Expanded Access Program
Clinical trials at Hackensack Meridian Health have specific inclusion/exclusion criteria based on the various guidelines at different phases of the investigational process and are delineated under the guidance of the Hackensack Meridian Health Office of Research Administration, which set up a research committee in the earliest days of the pandemic.
Call to Action: If you are based in New Jersey and have a family member or other loved on diagnosed with COVID-19, consider if one of the Hackensack Meridian Health studies could help. Inquire with their physician.