Physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) are now enrolling patients in two clinical trials testing treatment options for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Two trials, led by infectious disease specialist Kathryn Stephenson, MD, MPH, will test the antiviral drug remdesivir for safety and efficacy against the respiratory infection that has sickened more than 300,000 and killed more than 15,000 around the world to date.
“In addition to the social distancing measures now being implemented in every part of the world, new treatment options are needed to put an end to this unprecedented global pandemic,” said BIDMC Chief Academic Officer Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD. “With these timely clinical trials, BIDMC is bringing physicians and scientists, academia and industry together so that we can contribute to the worldwide effort to find new treatments for COVID-19.”
Remdesivir, an investigational drug developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. as a general purpose anti-viral, is designed to lessen the severity of COVID-19 by preventing viral replication in the early stages of infection. The two clinical trials at BIDMC will assess remdesivir’s efficacy when given to hospitalized patients with either moderate or severe COVID-19.
“Physicians all over the world are seeking new tools to use against this novel infection, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is joining the hunt for ways to lessen the virus’s impact,” said Stephenson, who is Director of BIDMC’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research Clinical Trials Unit and has previously worked to develop vaccines and treatments for HIV and Zika virus. “Remdesivir was designed to reduce the severity of viral infections or shorten patients’ recovery time, and it’s critical that we use rigorous research to determine its potential not only to help individual patients, but also to save lives simply by opening up more hospital beds for patients who need them.”
Enrollment in the BIDMC trials is available only to patients hospitalized at BIDMC for treatment of COVID-19. Admitted patients may request their care team contact the research team for information about the trial, Stephenson said. The research team will also reach out to eligible admitted patients directly.
First developed during the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2016, remdesivir was designed to be a general purpose, broad spectrum antiviral medication. Other treatments out-performed remdesivir against Ebola, but animal studies showed the drug could be effective against other coronavirus infections, like SARS, which emerged in 2003, and MERS, first detected in 2012.
Stephenson’s clinical trials compliment the basic science already underway in BIDMC labs, including that of Dan H. Barouch, MD, PhD, Director of BIDMC’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research. With experience in the development of preventative vaccines against HIV and Zika virus, Barouch and colleagues are already testing investigative COVID-19 vaccines in animal models.
“During this unprecedented pandemic, BIDMC’s clinical teams are delivering extraordinary care to our patients in the midst of a public health crisis moving at a scale and speed we have never seen before,” said Peter J. Healy, President of BIDMC. “BIDMC’s extraordinary research community is also stepping up to the singular challenge of bringing about an end to this global pandemic.