Who Needs to be Tested for Coronavirus?
In a global pandemic, the race to develop potential treatments or vaccines for a fast-spreading, deadly new virus can forge collaborations.
And in metro Detroit it has.
Four hospital systems — Henry Ford Health System, Ascension Michigan, Beaumont and the Detroit Medical Center — and Wayne State University announced Friday that they are collaborating to bring large-scale COVID-19 clinical trials to southeastern Michigan.
They’re hoping to work together to test a potential vaccine for COVID-19 and also to develop new therapies to treat patients using the plasma of people who’ve already recovered from the disease through randomized, controlled trials.
“This viral pandemic has no boundaries,” said Dr. Shukri David, chair of Cardiovascular Services, Ascension Michigan in a news release. “By combining the resources of our medical community, we will offer research opportunities that no one institution alone can defeat. Our efforts are stronger when we work together.”
David, along with cardiologists Dr. Amr Abbas from Beaumont, and emergency department specialist Dr. Brian O’Neil from DMC are leading their respective health systems’ efforts, along with emergency department specialist Dr. Phil Levy from Wayne State University.
“The whole idea is we want to collaborate in the region, apply for the new trials and be part of discovering best practices and treatments for COVID-19,” said Henry Ford Health System interventional cardiologist Dr. William W. “Bill” O’Neill, who organized the collaboration.
“We’re going to be very competitive. We want to figure out how to optimally treat these patients, to establish protocols and systems so we can all do things effectively and, very importantly, to quickly track outcomes.”
The group hopes to receive National Institutes of Health approval to bring two specific COVID-19 trials to southeastern Michigan:
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine: The company’s chief executive officer said Moderna may provide the vaccine to a few people, which could include health care workers, as early as this fall. A healthy volunteer received the first COVID-19 vaccine March 16. The company estimates it could take 18 months to make it commercially available, if the trials prove successful.
Takeda’s hyperimmune globulin: Using plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, the company is evaluating a treatment that’s been effective in treating other severe acute viral respiratory infections with the hope that it also could be used to treat COVID-19.
“Big research studies need time, but they also need a certain number of patients to prove the new treatment is number one: feasible; number two: effective; number three: safe,” said Dr. Abbas, an interventional and structural cardiologist who is the director of Cardiovascular Research Program at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. “For us to reach that perfect scenario, we need collaboration on that level among our hospital systems.”
Once trials are initiated at health systems, enrollment would occur through patients’ treating physicians.
“We hope our work here will last well into the future, should COVID-19 continue to be a threat,” said Wayne State’s Dr. Levy, chief innovation officer of the Wayne State University Physician Group and assistant vice president of Translational Science and Clinical Research Innovation for Wayne State University. “By combining forces, we can marshal greater research capabilities to effectively test vaccines and treatments to combat this virus.”
This collaboration is not new. In 2016, led by Dr. O’Neill, the cardiologists joined forces for an initiative to lower the death rate from cardiogenic shock, a potentially fatal side effect of massive heart attacks. Together they showed a specific treatment protocol increased patient survival in southeast Michigan from 50% to more than 70%.
The protocol is now the basis for the National Cardiogenic Shock Initiative, used by cardiologists to save lives around the United States.
Once trials begin, patients will be able to participate through their treating physicians.
“We hope our work here will last well into the future, should COVID-19 continue to be a threat,” said Levy, chief innovation officer of the Wayne State University Physician Group and assistant vice president of Translational Science and Clinical Research Innovation for Wayne State University. “By combining forces, we can marshal greater research capabilities to effectively test vaccines and treatments to combat this virus.”
Contact Free Press health reporter Kristen Jordan Shamus: 313-222-5997 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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