Guyanese doctor leads clinical trial on ‘antibody cocktail’ given to President Trump

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[tcpalm.com] – A Fort Pierce infectious disease physician is leading research at one of the nation’s 89 clinical trial sites on the “antibody cocktail” that President Trump was given to treat his COVID-19.

Dr. Moti Ramgopal, of Midway Immunology and Research Center, is a principal investigator on research for REGN-COV2, among other COVID-19 treatments, including remdesivir, he told TCPalm Monday.

REGN-COV2 is what maker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals calls the cocktail, of which Trump was given a single 8-gram dose Friday, according to his physician, Sean Conley.

Ramgopal said giving Trump the cocktail made sense from a medical perspective.

“I completely agree, I wish more people would get it,” he said. “I think all hospitalized patients should be getting this, and we’re probably heading in that direction as soon as these studies are done.”

Clinical trials

The cocktail is available only at select research sites conducting clinical trials.

Because Trump is not part of any clinical trial, he received the treatment under what Regeneron calls its “compassionate use program.” Treatments can be “approved under rare, exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis,” the company said in a news release.

A patient’s doctor must initiate a compassionate use request, according to Regeneron.

“The problem with COVID is that you can be fine today and really sick tomorrow,” Ramgopal said. “You can develop symptoms rapidly and become very sick, very quickly.”

The cocktail consists of two “virus-neutralizing” antibodies designed specifically to target SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according the biotechnology company.

Initial results of the U.S. clinical trials, which included 275 patients who received the cocktail, have proven optimistic, the biotech company announced in a news release. Data published last week shows symptoms improved after taking the treatment.

“The greatest treatment benefit was in patients who had not mounted their own effective immune response, suggesting that REGN-COV2 could provide a therapeutic substitute for the naturally occurring immune response,” the company said.

Midway Research Center

Ramgopal’s clinical trials are in their second phase at Midway Research Center.

One problem is COVID-19 patients are hesitant to take part because developing treatments are often called “experimental,” a term that can sound daunting, he said.

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A better word to describe these treatments is “investigational,” he said.

“It’s such an important time period in history to get these trials finished so we can get data that can help with treatment,” he said.

Midway Research Center has been recognized by name in 36 published studies on extensive research into HIV and Hepatitis C infections.

Note from News Room’s Editor-in-Chief: Dr Moti Ramgopal, featured in the article, is a  Guyanese national who is a Queen’s College alumnus.

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