STONY BROOK, NY, May 21, 2020 – A team of researchers in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University are investigating the use of two inhibitor drugs in the treatment of COVID-19. The collaborative work will be supported by a $450,000 grant, effective June 1, from the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation.
Led by Nancy Reich, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and recent President of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, the research will test the efficacy of interferon-lambda and bradykinin inhibitors, both FDA-approved drugs for other uses, in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 in laboratory models.
“Safe and effective vaccines take months to years to develop, if even attainable. For this reason, there is an urgent need to identify first-line, broad-spectrum, therapeutic agents that will block viral replication and will alleviate the effects of severe inflammatory responses caused by COVID-19,” said Dr. Reich, Principal Investigator.
She and colleagues believe these two drugs have promise in the treatment against COVID-19 because interferon is a natural antiviral hormone known to be the only cytokine that inhibits virus replication, and bradykinin inhibitors are effective in reducing the lung inflammatory responses to viral infection.
The research will take two approaches. One is to test the effectiveness of interferon-lambda to block viral replication. Interferon-lambda protects the epithelial cells that line the lung and digestive system and reduce viral load. The second approach is to block the severe pulmonary edema that occurs with COVID-19. To reduce the leakiness of blood vessels that causes inflammation, they will test inhibitors of bradykinin, a natural and potent mediator of vascular permeability.
In addition to the laboratory investigation, Dr. Reich said that the team will evaluate primary human lung cells and cells from other affected human tissues to define the molecular mechanisms by which COVID-19 takes over the infected cells and suppresses natural defense mechanisms.
The departmental effort involves collaborators with expertise in infections and immune defense. These include: Dr. Nancy Reich, Dr. Patrick Hearing, and Dr. Erich Mackow, who will investigate molecular aspects of COVID-19; and Dr. Janet Hearing and Dr. Hwan Kim who are certified to work in high containment biosafety laboratories.