Vanderbilt University Medical Center working to find COVID-19 treatments

Human trials for new drugs could begin as soon as later this year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Human trials for new drugs could begin as soon as later this year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Human trials for new drugs could begin as soon as later this year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Around the world, a race is on to help find new drugs and treatments to help lessen the effects of COVID-19, the strain of coronavirus currently spreading thorough the U.S.

Officials with Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville are working with drug makers and researchers to help treat symptoms for those already infected. Most recently, VUMC signed an agreement with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to find antibody treatments that could protect people exposed to the virus.

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center will work to find genetic sequences for antibodies and provide the data to AstraZeneca for assessment to determine if they can be used in a clinical setting, according to a release from VUMC.

The antibodies are found in the blood of humans that have already become infected by and recovered from COVID-19, according to VUMC. A drug using these antibodies could potentially be used to treat patients already infected to reduce symptoms and speed up recovery. The VVC has worked on antibody treatments in the past to help fight other widespread viruses, such as Ebola and Zika.

Currently, there is no treatment or cure for COVID-19, also referred to as SARS-CoV-2, which has infected more than 1.4 million worldwide, according to VUMC. However, researchers have been working over the last several weeks and have found antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus.


“AstraZeneca is a great partner for us since we have ultra-rapid antibody discovery technologies and have already discovered SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies,” VVC Director Dr. James Crowe said in a statement. “AstraZeneca has world-class product development and manufacturing expertise that could, if successful candidates are identified, turn these antibodies into effective biological drugs quickly.”

Crowe said the VVC hopes to have antibodies ready for human clinical trials as soon as this summer.

VUMC also announced April 6 it is working with the Emory Institute for Drug Development in Atlanta to develop an antiviral drug called EIDD-1931 that may help reduce the severity of symptoms caused by COVID-19.

Animal trials conducted with mice using EIDD-2801, a form of 1931, showed the drug helped prevent lung damage and weight loss when taken orally, according to the announcement from VUMC.

VUMC officials said human clinical trials are expected to begin this spring. If successful, the drug could help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and could also help control outbreaks of other coronavirus strains.

“We are amazed at the ability of EIDD-1931 and -2801 to inhibit all tested coronaviruses and the potential for oral treatment of COVID-19,” Dr. Andrea Pruijssers said in a statement. “This work shows the importance of ongoing National Institutes of Health support for collaborative research to develop antivirals for all pandemic viruses, not just coronaviruses.”
By Wendy Sturges
A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.