Dr. John Jefferies, professor and chief of Cardiology at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), suggested recently on local media that Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail called REGN-COV2 could potentially be a “game changer” in treating SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. UTHSC recently commenced the clinical trial investigating REGN-COV2 in partnership with Regional One, home to the oldest hospital in Tennessee. The Phase 2/3 two-pronged study includes those individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 yet have mild to moderate cases and therefore, don’t require hospitalization while the investigators also recruit those who reside with infected patients in a bid to prevent them from getting infected in the first place. TrialSite reported recently that a San Antonio trial site location reported positive signals with REGN-COV2.
COVID-19 in Memphis
With about 650,000 living in the city and 1.2 million in the metropolitan area, Memphis is part of Shelby County, which counts just under 1 million people. As of this writing, Shelby County has recorded 31,044 cases of COVID-19 with 458 deaths. The State of Tennessee has a total of 2,347 deaths associated with COVID-19. Meaning, Shelby County has recorded nearly 20% of the COVID-19 related deaths in the state.
By July, reports were grim for the African American population, which represents about 48 percent of the county and over 60 percent of the COVID-19 cases, reported Dr. LaTonya B. Washington, President of the Bluff City Medical Society who commented that social determinants make some communities more vulnerable to the pathogen.
UTHSC & Regional One Take on Regeneron Trial
Recently, WMC Action News 5 in Memphis introduced the REGN-COV2 study here in Memphis, Tennessee. With UTHSC and Regional One leading the effort, the local media interviewed both Dr. John Jeffries and Dr. Amber Thacker, Assist. Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics at UTHSC are heading up a Phase 2/3 REGN-COV2 in Memphis. Although vaccines are center of mind, therapies such as this, provided they are proven safe and efficacious, represent a vital part of a strategy to treat and contain COVID-19—as will other off-label, low cost approaches should they prove safe and effective.
Dr. Thacker commented for the local television media, “It would be amazing to have a drug that would prevent people from becoming infected in the first place.”
The Memphis investigators suggest an influenza analogy associating Tamiflu with a shortening of illness duration, while lessening the severity of symptoms. The concept with REGN-COV2 is the same for COVID-19. Thacker commented, “If we have a drug that is able to block it from entering, then people who are already sick might get better faster. Because right now, we have people who are sick for weeks and weeks.”
C Action News 5 reports that those who were recently diagnosed as positive for COVID-19 can qualify for the one-hour infusion of the biologic drug in an outpatient setting at Regional One. Patients are then monitored prior to release and, of course. in the days and weeks after the treatment. Study teams are centering attention on safety and efficacy.
For those that are just diagnosed as positive for COVID-19, they could be eligible for (NCT04425629) while those that are living with others that are COVID-19 positive could potentially participate in (NCT04452318).
Fortunate TrialSite Organization
Dr. Jeffries raises the implication of such a drug should it prove to be safe and effective. REGN-COV2 could actually help patients reduce the symptoms and overall effect while possibly helping others not even get sick in the first place. Dr. Jefferies commented, “If we can mitigate the effects of this, and change the trajectory of the virus and the impact it has, I think that’s a huge opportunity. And we feel fortunate to have access to this therapy.”
UTHSC’s Office of Research, community focused and maintains a rich tradition of supporting excellence in basic, clinical and translational research. UTHSC faculty and staff receive an average of about $100 million in external funding annually for research sponsored programs.
The UTHSC College of Medicine ranked 79th out of 139 Colleges of Medicine in NIH funding in FY 13 with several departments ranked as top NIH-funded departments [Anatomy (50), Neurology (49), Ophthalmology (38), Pathology (57), Pharmacology (52), Physiology (15), Preventive Medicine/Public Health. The academic medical center has achieved a number of record accomplishments in fields such as diabetes, lipoproteins, hypertension, cardiovascular physiology, and more.
With its first charter back in 1829, Regional One is home to the oldest hospital in Tennessee; and it has certainly evolved and grown beyond only an acute care hospital to include a children’s hospital, tuberculosis hospital, military hospital, military and maternity hospital and ultimately the Regional Medical Center, which is home to nationally recognized Centers of Excellence and a commitment to providing quality healthcare to all people of the Mid-South.
Dr. John Jefferies, Professor and chief of Cardiology at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC)
Dr. Amber Thacker, Assist. Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics at UTHSC , Regional One
Call to Action: If you are based in the Memphis area and have been either tested positive for COVID-19 or live with someone who has been tested positive, consider reaching out to UTHSC or Regional One to consider participating in this study. Follow the link to ascertain if you qualify.