UVA researchers collaborate, report progress in the fight against COVID-19

Researchers at the University of Virginia are making progress on several fronts in the fight against the coronavirus.
Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 4:45 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Researchers at the University of Virginia are making progress on several fronts in the fight against the coronavirus. They shared updates during a virtual panel discussion called “Tackling the COVID-19 Crisis at the University of Virginia” on Monday, May 11.

UVA researchers are collaborating on modeling, testing, treatment, and vaccine production in the race to end this pandemic. They’re working with local, state, and federal officials.

Models are tracking and predicting the spread of the virus in Virginia and the effects of neighboring states reopening.

“The bottom line is, at the current moment, we think social distancing efforts are working. Although, our models suggest the effects might be weaning” said Dr. Madhav Marathe with the UVA Biocomplexity Institute.

UVA labs received their first test for the virus on March 18. Right now, they can run about 600 tests per day. A lack of supplies is holding that number back.

“If we could get the platforms that we’ve wanted, that we’ve ordered, that we’ve been waiting for, we’d be doing 3,000 tests a day,” said associate professor of medicine and pathology Dr. Amy Mathers.

Mathers and her team created their own testing swabs. They’re working to manufacture 60,000 swabs a week to help meet the demand.

In the hospital, researchers are moving into the second phase of a clinical trial of the drug Remdesivir in combination with another drug. A trial of Remdesivir alone at UVA showed it helped speed up recovery and could reduce death rates from the virus.

“Shortening that gets patients out of the hospital faster, and being able to move patients back home decreases the stress on healthcare systems especially in parts of the world where there is more burden of the disease from COVID-19 than we’ve seen so far in Charlottesville,” said Dr. Patrick Jackson, assistant professor of medicine.

The university’s ultimate goal is to develop a vaccine that’s easy and cheap to produce to stop the virus in its tracks.

“We want a vaccine that is going to work not just now but for the future in case the virus evolves,” said Dr. Steven Zeichner.

Zeichner is involved with the vaccine and says he is hopeful for it to go into clinical development soon. He says it’s still likely at least 12 to 18 months out for the general public.

The full panel discussion is online to watch at: https://youtu.be/pWG6tBYryK8.

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