TEL AVIV, Israel - An Israeli drug that has been successful in initial trials, could hold a key in blunting the COVID-19 pandemic. Thirty patients in serious condition participated in the trial and all recovered, most of them in less than a week.
Sonya Cohen was one of them and she could one day be seen as a walking miracle.
Coming to the hospital with COVID-19, she was unable to breathe. She was placed in intensive care and needed oxygen.
That’s when professor Nadir Arber, head of the Preventive Medicine Division at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, came to her and asked if she would be part of a clinical trial for a new drug. Sonya said yes.
“From the first [dose of the drug], it’s possible to say I felt a lot better. After two days I got off the oxygen in stages and I could breathe,” Sonya told CBN News. “I could really breathe. I felt that I was between life and death. Thanks to God and of course thanks to the doctors.”
Photo Credit: CBN News/ Jonathan Goff
CBN News was at the hospital recently when Sonya returned with gifts in hand to thank Dr Arber in person.
“I want to say thank you for everything. You saved my life. I was in a poor condition and now I’m better,” Sonya told Arber.
Now researchers are eager to take the treatment on to the next steps toward approval.
“This is a drug. It is very simple. We give it to patients with severe disease before they are going to deteriorate to very severe disease that mandate[s] ventilations and even [leads to] mortality,” Arber told CBN News.
Arber is directing the research on developing the anti-corona-virus drug, EXO-CD24, a treatment derived from a cell line established from a child aborted decades ago.
“We had a lot of experience on the CD24. We also had started to work on exosomes. Exosomes [are] something exciting. This is how a cell talks to each other. Cell-[to]-cell interaction. It’s amazing cells in our body speak to each other, exchange information,” Arber explained.
He says for most people COVID-19 is like a regular flu. But for about five to seven percent of those who get it, it gets much worse.
“We don’t really treat the corona, we treated the endpoint,” he said. “There [are] over-reactions of the immune system. The immune system is acting furiously and mainly in the lung releasing a lot of cytokines and chemokines that usually fight infections but now they are destroying the lung tissue, which is very friable,” Arber said.
Photo Credit: CBN News/ Jonathan Goff
That’s the point they intervene and administer their treatment, which Arber says interrupts this cytokine storm.
“And we give it by inhalation. It’s very simple. It’s like 2-3 minutes per day and you do it for five days. So, we enrolled 30 patients in phase one,” he said. “We checked for safety and the drug was very safe. No side effects whatsoever.”
All 30 patients in that phase one trial recovered.
According to Arber, most of the patients went home in three to five days. Since the first patient in the trial was involved on September 26, they’ve had almost 150 days to follow-up. They have found the drug to be very safe and effective without side-effects.
While Arber believes the vaccination push is important, he also feels this drug could have an even bigger impact if the remaining two phases of important human trials are successful.
“The biggest advantage of my drug, if it’s effective of course, is that I can produce it fast, efficient, and cheap. Within a few months, I can supply the entire world’s needs. So, this is exciting,” he said.
Arber recently briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the treatment’s progress. Netanyahu said if the EXO-CD24 succeeds the results would have “global significance.”
Later, at a press conference with the visiting Greek prime minister, Netanyahu praised the results and reported that Greek hospitals would join in the clinical trials.
“If you’re infected by corona and you’re seriously ill and you have a lung problem, you take this, you inhale this, with a saline solution and you come out, feeling good,” Netanyahu said holding up the tiny bottle that contains the drug.
Arber says many more countries want to participate and he believes this could just be the beginning.
“And then it’s going to be the platform for many other disease[s], which overreact, like auto-immune disease in the lung[s] and in the entire body.
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