WRAL Investigates

Raleigh firm testing coronavirus antibody treatment Trump received

Posted October 5, 2020 5:45 p.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2020 7:47 p.m. EDT

— Before heading to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday because of his coronavirus infection, President Donald Trump took an experimental antibody treatment.

The antibodies were produced by Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Raleigh-based Wake Research is leading clinical trials of the drug cocktail in North Carolina.

"It can be used to prevent the infection or reduce the severity of the infection," said Dr. Wayne Harper, a primary investigator for Wake Research.

Regeneron used plasma from people who have contracted COVID-19 and recovered to make a drug to attack the coronavirus.

"They produce a highly concentrated antibody aimed at the spike protein" on the virus, Harper said.

The human body normally produces antibodies after contracting a virus or getting a vaccine. Injecting antibodies into someone essentially skips those steps to protect people.

"If you develop this passive immunity, then you can reduce the severity of a COVID-19 infection, or if you’re exposed to COVID-19, you can stop the infection from developing," Harper said.

Unlike a trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine that Wake Research is also conducting, the antibody trial is targeting very specific volunteers, according to clinical director Aubrey Farray.

"We’re looking for household members of non-positive or household members of known positive COVID patients," Farray said.

By enrolling people with known close contact to a COVID patient – some will get the antibody treatment and others will get a placebo – Harper said the trial will hopefully demonstrate that "the treated group does not get the infection."

Regeneron isn't alone in testing coronavirus antibodies. Eli Lilly says trials of its antibody treatment went so well that hospitalizations decreased almost 75 percent for patients who received the antibodies. Researchers also said they found few side-effects, if any, compared with volunteers who received a placebo.

To take part in Wake Research’s Regeneron trial or its continuing trial on the Moderna coronavirus vaccine candidate, text “covid” to 919-750-8823 in the Triangle or text “covid” to 910-469-1812 in the Fayetteville area.

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