Vancouver biotech company tests COVID-19 treatment

Sheridan Kowta

The drug is called Leronlimab

by: Jennifer Dowling

Posted: Apr 25, 2020 / 05:19 PM PDT
/ Updated: Apr 25, 2020 / 09:02 PM PDT

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A drug developed by a Vancouver company has shown a lot of promise in the battle to save people from the coronavirus. The drug is currently in clinical trials, and the company’s CEO believes that it could save lives in the months to come if it’s fully approved for widespread use in the future.

The biotech company is called CytoDyn and the drug, Leronlimab. The company’s CEO and President, Nader Pourhassan, said this drug was already being tested for use with HIV and cancer patients—and with good results. Now, it looks like it might be able to help with coronavirus patients as well.

Nader Pourhassan, President and CEO of CytoDyn, a biotech company based in Vancouver, Washington. April 25, 2020 (KOIN)

When a woman from California became seriously ill with the coronavirus, she received the experimental drug Leronlimab.

“That whole week was a complete blur to me,” said COVID-19 survivor Samantha Mottet. “I was just so tired. I literally fought constantly.”

Although her oxygen levels improved, it’s still unknown if the drug was responsible for her recovery. But Pourhassan believes it’s evidence to be hopeful.

“The reason we die, coronavirus goes in the body and replicates and makes the body over-react,” said Pourhassan.

It won’t stop the transmission of something like the coronavirus, but it will stop some people from dying, according to Pourhassan. In simpler terms, it works by calming down the body’s immune system and potential over-response to the virus by mitigating that response. It’s believed that the body can better fight off the virus.

“The body can’t handle the virus,” said Pourhassan. “If you calm the body down, it will be like a flu. What happens to the flu virus? It goes away because the body can handle it. Leronlimab is a product that modulates the immune system so the immune system gets corrected. So, the ‘cytokine storm’ does not happen, it actually allows the body to get through this and be able to get discharged from the hospital and not get on a ventilator.”

The offices of CytoDyn, a biotech company in Vancouver, Washington. April 25, 2020 (KOIN)

Pourhassan said several patients in a hospital were injected with the drug after it was requested by a doctor there for “compassionate use”—which is allowed by the FDA. He said upon seeing the results, the FDA gave the company the green light for more randomized trials involving severe and mild-to-moderate patients.

“We have just shown it in 40 anecdotal data,” said Pourhassan. “It’s not proven yet, but the FDA has given us the full green light to do our Phase Two.”

He said the manufacturers AGC Biologics in Bothell, Washington, and a company in South Korea, stand ready to help make millions of vials if it’s approved.

“We are going to do everything we can to go as fast as we can, and the FDA is doing a fantastic job with us, and we are very happy with that,” said Pourhassan.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

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