Virginia biotech company teams up with UGA to develop COVID-19 therapy

A Virginia biotech company has teamed up with The University of Georgia to develop a therapy to fight coronavirus.

Cel-Sci Corp. (NYSE American: CVM) said March 23 it signed a collaboration agreement with UGA’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology to develop LEAPS COVID-19 immunotherapy. 

“CEL-SCI’s immunotherapy candidate aims to treat patients at highest risk of dying from COVID-19,” the company said. “The collaboration will commence with pre-clinical studies based on the experiments previously conducted with LEAPS immunotherapy in collaboration with the National Institutes for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) against another respiratory virus, H1N1, involved in the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Those successful studies demonstrated that LEAPS peptides, given after virus infection has occurred, reduced morbidity and mortality in mice infected with H1N1.”

“It is suggested, based on studies with H1N1, that a LEAPS coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 immunotherapy may reduce or arrest the progression of the SARS-CoV-2 virus infection and prevent tissue damage from inflammation resulting from lung infection by the virus,” the company said. “By stimulating the correct immune responses to the COVID-19-causing virus without producing unwanted inflammatory responses associated with lung tissue damage, LEAPS immunotherapy may be particularly beneficial in those patients who are at highest risk of dying from COVID-19.”

CEL-SCI’s COVID-19 studies at UGA will be led by Principal Investigator Ted M. Ross, director of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology, Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar, and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Georgia. 

“LEAPS has the potential to be a powerful tool against SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, based on its dual anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties,” Ross said in a statement. “Combining the prior pre-clinical data of LEAPS against H1N1 with our advancing knowledge of COVID-19, we aim to rapidly evaluate this technology’s potential to meet the urgent need to treat patients at greatest risk of dying from this global pandemic. The University of Georgia’s biocontainment labs at the Center for Vaccines and Immunology are ideally suited for these studies, and will serve as critical assets in this collaboration with CEL-SCI.”

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