June 2020: KYW InDepth Podcast – Why NIH is Studying a NJ Lab’s COVID-19 Treatment?

KYW Newsradio delves into why the National Institute of Health (NIH) Clinical Center is measuring patient gelsolin levels as part of the NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research and what they hope to find. Dr. John Gallin, Chief Scientific Officer of the NIH Clinical Center and the NIH Associate Director for Clinical Research and Dr. Susan Levinson, CEO of BioAegis share their expertise and views on what this means for understanding and treating COVID-19. 
Lead researcher, Dr. Gallin, explains:

  • Why focus on gelsolin for COVID-19 research. “My interest (in measuring gelsolin) is the possibility that gelsolin is an important protein in this disease and it is not working properly as a result of the infection.”
  • What low levels of gelsolin mean.  “If it is low, as defined in a number of other infections, it might give us a clue that we need to think about giving gelsolin to people as a way to remedy this deficiency.”
  • Use of gelsolin for COVID-19. “We need to think about the possibility that gelsolin might be a therapeutic down the road that can be added to strategies for managing these (COVID-19) patients.”
  • Preliminary data.  “Our preliminary data is that it is very low in patients (with COVID-19). This supports the idea that they are at increased risk because they lack the buffering ability of gelsolin to control some of the things that induce inflammation.”
  • Additional applications for BioAegis’ recombinant human plasma gelsolin (rhu-pGSN). “It is a very very intriguing idea, very compelling data in animals, less data so far in people…We should be aggressively pursuing it from a number of angles.” 

Dr Susan Levinson, co-founder of BioAegis, shares:

  • What NIH study means to BioAegis.  “We’ve seen in dozen of different diseases that gelsolin levels drop when there is inflammation, injury, infections, and it drops in proportion to how severe the disease is. So we expect, since COVID-19 is so severe, to see that the patients who are most affected will have the lowest gelsolin levels…What we care about most is actually using gelsolin to treat patients so that they don’t end up with organ damage and death because of this pandemic.”
  • Need for treatment prior to a vaccine. “Until we have a vaccine, we need something to treat them (severe COVID-19 patients). There is very little out there and what is out there is only modestly effective in some patients, not all. This is exactly where gelsolin comes in – its sweet spot, that very severely ill patient, with very low gelsolin levels. We can supplement the levels and based on all our animal data, over 20 different models, we expect this is going to help people get through the most severe part of the disease.
  • Preparedness for next pandemic. “The beauty of gelsolin is that the next time there is a pandemic, and there most certainly will be, we won’t have to wait until a vaccine is developed.  We will have something in our armamentarium that’s able to rescue the most severely ill patients, giving us time to develop the vaccine.”
  • Uniqueness of gelsolin treatment. “One of the most unusual things about gelsolin is that it addresses a medical issue that no one thought you could really do, and that is that you can prevent the damage from excess inflammation without suppressing the immune system. So, if you think about it, most anti-inflammatories, like steroids that they are trying to use in COVID-19, as well as immune suppressants, which are also being studied in COVID-19, they all suppress the immune system, and that’s how they work and it’s a good thing when you are trying to control inflammation. But, when you are fighting infection at the same time, it’s better to have something that doesn’t suppress.”

Listen to the entire podcast including detailed information on the NIH study and BioAegis’ regulatory progress by clicking on the image below.