Ep. 106: On the Verge: Leaders in Bioscience Discuss the State of Vaccines and Treatments | Conversations with Mike Milken

Key Takeaways

  • Strategies for preventing and eliminating COVID-19: drug repurposing, antiviral antibody cocktails, vaccine
  • In studies, chemostat (a cancer drug from Japan) led to rapid relief of COVID-19 symptoms while hydroxychloroquine virtually acted as a placebo
  • We will still need drugs to protect those who may not respond well to the vaccine and those who have already been infected
  • SARS-CoV-2 only lives in humans so breaking the transmission cycle for a few weeks would eliminate it

Introduction

In this packed episode, Mike Milken and Howard Soule (@soulehoward1) host a panel with George Yancopoulos (Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Regeneron), Joseph Vinetz (Professor of Medicine, Yale University, Infectious Disease Physician), and Tal Zaks (Chief Medical Officer, Moderna).

Together, the bioscience leaders have a conversation about the state of COVID-19, herd immunity, and a comprehensive discussion about vaccines and other treatments.

Hosts: Mike Milken (@MilkenInstitute) and Howard Soule (@soulehoward1)

How The Body Fights Infection & Overview of Vaccines

  • When you get an infection the body’s immune system responds by generated antiviral antibodies that bind and kill the virus
  • Antibodies can last a lifetime to protect against future infection of the same virus
  • Vaccines build on what the body normally does by administering a small dose of virus or protein and eliciting an immune response
  • Some vaccines like the measles vaccine offer a lifetime of protection with one dose – but not all
  • Moderna’s COVID vaccine (in trials) develops neutralizing antibodies without injecting the virus by leveraging mRNA  
  • The people who are most vulnerable to a virus and do not respond well are often the same people who do not respond well to a vaccine
  • It’s difficult to reach everyone with vaccines because of availability and response so it’s likely we still need therapeutic drugs
  • “We’re going to need vaccines to create as widespread herd immunity as we can, but we’re also going to need drugs that are targeted against the virus that can provide immediate protection and also treat those who are already sick.” – George Yancopoulos

Repurposing Drugs for COVID-19

  • Controlled trials are the gold standard for testing whether a drug works
  • Drugs that work in cytokine storms in other clinical settings (such as cancer) could have applications in coronavirus  
  • Chemostat, a cancer drug from Japan was efficacious in the fight against SARS-CoV-2
  • In studies, chemostat led to rapid symptom relief while hydroxychloroquine virtually acted as a placebo

Antibody Cocktail Approach

  • We will still need drugs to protect those who may not respond well to the vaccine and those who have already been infected
  • It’s possible to make antibodies outside of the body and administer for immediate protection
  • Combination drug therapies – such as antiviral medications used in HIV are preferred because they prevent drug resistance
  • Antiviral antibody cocktail being developed for COVID-19 can prevent infection and protect those already infected

Herd Immunity

  • Questions of interest: How fast can we distribute supplies? How many people will want to take the vaccine? What’s the potency of vaccines?
  • It’s likely we’ll see vaccines in production early-mid 2021 after phase 3 trials and data are solidified
  • We live in a period in which people are skeptical about science – if only 50% of the population gets the vaccine, it’s going to be impossible or take much longer to develop herd immunity
  • Even with 50% potency, herd immunity through vaccination is still plausible

The Future of COVID-19

  • COVID-19 has become endemic, spreading rapidly in pockets everywhere
  • SARS-CoV-2 only lives in humans so breaking the transmission cycle for a few weeks would eliminate it
  • 90-97% of people infected don’t have active culture two weeks later
  • A vaccine will be useful in eradicating
  • Control – elimination – eradication
  • In five years, with vaccination and therapeutic drugs, COVID-19 will probably be a thing of the past
Conversations with Mike Milken : , , , , , ,
Notes By Maryann

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