Math Model Predicts Optimal Treatments, Reducing Infectious Period Could Save Millions, Illumina Tracks Variants: COVID-19 Updates

January 8, 2021

January 8, 2021 I New hybrid approach identifies existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat SARS-CoV-2 and Cellid signs research contract with the International Vaccine Institute to expedite clinical development of “AdCLD-CoV-19” COVID-19 vaccine. Plus: Illumina and Helix will track the emergence and prevalence of new strains, including the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant.


Research News

Shortening the infectious period of COVID-19 could potentially prevent millions of cases and save billions of dollars, according to a new computational analysis published in PLOS Computational Biology. Scientists created the model that simulates the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to show how a vaccine or therapeutic that reduces the contagious period might alleviate the clinical and economic impact of the virus. They demonstrate that reducing the contagious period by half a day in just a quarter of symptomatic patients could prevent 1.4 million cases, over 99,000 hospitalizations, and save $209.5 billion in direct medical and indirect costs. Expanding this treatment to 75% of infected individuals could avert 29.7 million cases and save $856 billion, according to the researchers. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008470

A biology-based mathematical model, created by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital with collaborators, predicts best treatment strategies for COVID-19 patients and indicates why outcomes vary widely. The model was originally developed for cancer research to analyze involvement of the renin angiotensin system in the development of fibrous tissues in tumors but was modified to better understand mechanisms specific to COVID-19. Through use of this model, the research team found that viral load increases during early lung infection and then takes a different course at Day 5, depending on the levels of T cells in the patient. This finding may explain why patients younger than 35 years old, with healthy immune systems and a sustained recruitment of T cells, have a lower risk of blood clot formation and faster recovery of oxygen levels in lung tissues. The model suggests various treatment approaches, depending on the patient, such as drugs specifically targeting cytokines in those with pre-existing conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This work is published in PNAS. DOI:10.1073/pnas.2021642118

A new hybrid approach combining deep-learning technologies and traditional simulations identifies existing drugs that could be repurposed for the treatment of COVID-19. Chinese researchers used this novel approach to screen over 1,900 drugs for their ability to inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2 and identified four promising candidates. After further lab testing, they determined that pralatrexate, a medication used to treat lymphoma, inhibited viral replication more strongly than remdesivir. The researchers note that this drug can cause significant side effects and further testing is needed, however, their research supports the use of this new screening strategy to quickly identify potential drug candidates for the treatment of COVID-19. This study is published in PLOS Computational Biology. DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008489


Industry News

Illumina and Helix will collaborate to track the emergence and prevalence of novel SARS-CoV-2 strains in the United States and expand the country’s surveillance infrastructure with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illumina’s sequencing technology combined with Helix’s national COVID-19 testing footprint has already identified more than 50 U.S. cases of B.1.1.7, which is the highly transmissible variant first found in the United Kingdom. Helix and Illumina plan to examine a higher volume of samples on an ongoing basis for both the presence of B.1.1.7 and new strains to allow public and private entities to quickly react to any changes in pathogenicity of the virus or effectiveness of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Press Release

Cellid and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) have exchanged a collaborative research agreement to analyze the immunogenicity of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Cellid, “AdCLD-CoV-19”. IVI will analyze samples from Phase 1/2a clinical trials of the vaccine to determine whether it induced the right immune responses. Cellid is developing the COVID-19 vaccine based on an adenovirus vector, and the company received approval for a Phase 1/2a clinical trial plan from the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in December 2020. Following this approval, Cellid signed a contract with Korea University Guro Hospital and is currently conducting clinical trials with them. Cellid and IVI aim to expedite the clinical trials through their collaboration and hope to commercialize the COVID-19 vaccine as early as summer of this year. Press Release