UPS donates $100,000 to U of L in support of COVID-19 research Monday, May 11 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

UPS has pledged a $100,000 donation to the University of Louisville to fund research into a potential COVID-19 treatment.

The UPS donation will help fund the trials and pay for the test materials needed for COVID-19 research.

The funding will go to support research like Paula Bates’, which has shown promise in inhibiting COVID-19. Wanting to apply her prior research to the current COVID-19 outbreak, Bates partnered with Kenneth Palmer, the director of U of L’s Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Bates’ treatment involves an aptamer, a piece of synthetic DNA, that she discovered along with John Trent and Don Miller. U of L is hoping that they will be able to fast track approval of the treatment because it has already been used in human clinical trials on cancer patients and has been shown to be safe.

“I deeply appreciate the gift from UPS that helps support my work,” Bates, a professor of medicine, said. “It is with gifts such as this that we will be able to advance our research and our ability to treat the novel coronavirus. I’m also thankful to be in such a collaborative setting with great facilities and a supportive environment for translational research. There are only a few places where we could have tested this idea so quickly.”

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L researchers discover a treatment that could be useful against COVID-19 Wednesday, May 6 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered that a piece of synthetic DNA could be a useful treatment for COVID-19 patients.

This synthetic DNA, also known as an aptamer, was discovered by Paula Bates, John Trent and Don Miller. Bates was originally interested in this technology for its potential in cancer patients.

“I’m actually a cancer researcher by training, and one of the things I’ve investigated in the past is developing a drug that specifically targets cancer cells,” Bates said. “It turns out that the protein that this drug binds to is also involved with helping a lot of viruses do their thing.”

Bates said that she first had the idea in February as she was trying to think of ways that she could help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. When she realized that her drug could be effective against COVID-19, she reached out to Kenneth Palmer, director of U of L’s Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Palmer tested Bates’ treatment and found out that it was able to inhibit COVID-19. The treatment will still have to go through testing and human clinical trials before it will be ready for widespread use on COVID-19 patients.

Bates is still unsure how the drug will be used if it gets approved, but thinks that it could be useful for either very sick patients or those who are just starting to experience symptoms. She said she will know more about how it can be used once they design the clinical trial.

Bates is also hoping that the testing process could be quicker than normal because the drug has already been used in clinical trials with cancer patients. She believes that this advantage will make it so this treatment could become available before a vaccine.

“We’re all hoping for a vaccine that will work and be safe and available to everyone as soon as possible but best case scenario I think that’s going to be a year at least,” Bates said. “So the goal is to have something out before then so that the more options we have to treat the coronavirus, the more we can return to some sense of normalcy.”

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

 

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U of L processing more coronavirus test results Thursday, Apr 9 2020 

By Matthew Keck — 

The University of Louisville has increased its efforts with coronavirus testing to help fight the fatal pandemic.

Researchers at U of L are processing test results from 12 different hospitals, U of L Campus Health and four outpatient clinics in the Louisville area. As of April 1, they have processed 1,797 tests, with more than 1,000 of them coming from Norton Healthcare.

Out of the 1,797 tests thus far, there have been 204 positive results.

U of L executive vice president for research and innovation Kevin Gardner said they now have to capacity to test up to 1,000 cases per day. Other U of L researchers have put their duties on hold to devote their time to fighting this virus.

Last week, U of L Health opened the first drive-thru testing in Kentucky. As a part of this effort, the drive-thru testing will be processing up to 200 cases per day.

According to Gardner, U of L’s efforts are producing test results within 24 hours. This quick turnaround allows hospitals to isolate patients and healthcare providers with COVID-19. Along with that, they can move others out of isolation, saving protective medical equipment that is low across the state.

This processing is also an effort to help researchers answer questions about the deadly COVID-19. They are hoping to find how the virus has spread, how it progresses and who gets it. U of L is also working on long-term approaches to the virus.

Kenneth Palmer, director of U of L’s Center for Preventive Medicine, is testing potential treatments, one of which was developed at U of L in partnership with the National Cancer Institute and the University of Pittsburgh.

Support for this research includes $500,000 in funding from U of L, but the university is asking for those able to make a donation for further support.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal 

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U of L researches treatment for COVID-19 using protein grown in tobacco Thursday, Apr 2 2020 

By Eli Hughes —

Researchers at the University of Louisville are working on a possible treatment for COVID-19 that uses a protein grown in tobacco.

This treatment is being designed as a preventative nasal spray that researchers are hoping will reach human clinical trials by the end of the year.

Kenneth Palmer, director of U of L’s Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, said that the protein active in the treatment was first studied by his team for its usefulness in preventing HIV.

“We knew that this protein had very good activity against HIV and we wondered some years ago whether it would have activity against other viruses,” Palmer said. “One group of viruses that we were interested in were SARS-Coronavirus.”

Palmer’s group found that this protein was successful in inhibiting many different strains of the coronavirus. Now, almost 15 years later, they wondered if this protein would be successful in preventing the newest strain of the coronavirus, COVID-19.

“We got the virus into our labs,” Palmer said, “And tested to see if the protein would also inhibit the new coronavirus, SARS-coronavirus II, and indeed it does.”

“So, now we are using our tobacco produced product to inhibit the new coronavirus.”

The protein works by binding to the sugar structures that many viruses have on their surfaces. This prevents the virus from replicating.

Palmer says that his team chose to use a lab rat relative of tobacco to grow this protein because tobacco produces the protein well and it is easy to extract.

Palmer has 15 years of experience working with proteins in tobacco plants. He says that Kentucky’s experience with growing tobacco and the enviroment suitable for growing the plant in Kentucky makes it a good choice.

The researchers are now applying for funding to get their treatment into a human clinical trial. Palmer says that their nasal spray could be available before a vaccine becomes available.

Even if this treatment comes out after a vaccine it could still be valuable to public health by combatting other types of the coronavirus.

“Over the last 15 years or so we’ve had three serious public health concerns from the coronavirus,” said Palmer. “And our product is active against all coronaviruses while a vaccine will tend to be more specific to a single coronavirus strain.”

Research is currently being conducted in U of L’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory and strict safety measures are being upheld to ensure the safety of the researchers.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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