A multipronged attack against a shared enemy

first_img Designing a coronavirus vaccine Facing a pandemic, Broad does a quick pivot Related This is part of our Coronavirus Update series in which Harvard specialists in epidemiology, infectious disease, economics, politics, and other disciplines offer insights into what the latest developments in the COVID-19 outbreak may bring.Teams of medical researchers at Harvard have joined the frantic race to find a treatment for the novel coronavirus as the global pandemic intensifies. The approaches are varied and include designing small molecules that can inhibit proteins in the virus, harnessing the natural power of the human immune system by extracting antibodies from recovered patients, and repurposing existing antivirals made to fight other diseases.Many of the collaborations extend well beyond the University.The need is mounting, the stakes high. Worldwide there are more than 634,000 confirmed cases with 29,891 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It now appears that the U.S. has become the epicenter, with more than 140,904 cases and 2,405 deaths.“The goal of all this work is to develop therapies that help with both the symptoms and the progression of the disease,” said Mark Namchuk. He is executive director of Harvard Medical School’s Therapeutics Initiative and the co-lead for the therapeutics working group at the Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness.The consortium started in late February as an effort to rally the region’s biomedical science talent to develop better diagnostics, therapeutics, and potentially a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.In recent days, many possible treatments for COVID-19 have been thrust into the spotlight by health and public officials, including President Trump. One of the most promising drugs is an experimental antiviral called remdesivir. It’s delivered intravenously and works by disrupting a virus’s ability to replicate. It was developed to treat Ebola. Others include the malaria therapies chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, and a combination of two HIV drugs, ritonavir and lopinavir, both alone and combined with an anti-inflammatory. Each has shown some initial promise in lab tests with COVID-19, while the effectiveness of others is largely anecdotal.WHO announced on March 23 that it had launched global clinical trials of these drug regimens. In late February, the U.S., which is not involved in the WHO research, launched its own clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of remdesivir. Gilead Sciences, the biopharmaceutical that developed the drug, also launched its own study. At the same time, pharmaceuticals, labs, and universities worldwide have launched independent studies looking at other options.Work on both the Gilead trial and the federal National Institutes of Health study is being done at two of Harvard’s affiliated hospitals.Namchuk said despite the number of approaches being studied, it’s too early to tell whether any will work out.“At this point, it is best to follow the science, and let the data guide us,” he said. The timeframe also varies and depends on the approach. “In terms of a short-term treatment, something that could come out of repurposing [an existing drug or molecule], for example, might be available on a timeframe that could be similar to if not a little in advance of when you’d have a broadly distributable vaccine,” he said. “I think if it’s therapeutics development [and] not an existing approved molecule, then it would likely lag behind when you see the first vaccines come through.”Treatment options and the impacts they may have are being explored across Harvard affiliates and Schools like the Medical School and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers prepare for next year and beyond New tool will help leaders make informed decisions as hospitals prepare for COVID-19 patients App predicts hospital capacity One of the leading efforts is at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where doctors are conducting clinical trials of remdesivir. Both studies are led by professors at HMS.The study at MGH is part of the National Institutes of Health’s national trial, which will enroll patients at 50 sites across the country. The study looks at whether the drug relieves symptoms and helps patients leave hospitals sooner. Patients receive the drug daily for up to 10 days or as long as they are in the hospital.The study will include a spectrum of patients from those mildly ill to those in intensive care. It is a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, meaning 50 percent will get the drug while the other half will receive a placebo. The doctors won’t know who gets what.“We’ve already enrolled 16 patients, which is right up there with other major centers in the U.S.,” said Libby Hohmann, MGH’s principal investigator for the study and an associate professor of medicine at HMS, on Wednesday. “We only get 30 patients so we’re halfway to the end, and we actually have already inquired about whether we can get more.”Hohmann is hopeful about the drug. “It’s a pretty well-tolerated drug. We haven’t seen any major issues related to it in the patients we’ve enrolled, and the side effect profile is pretty modest. It is intravenous, so that’s a bit of a downside,” she said, as it means it will have to be administered at a medical facility. “It’s being made; it’s in the pipeline. I haven’t been told it’s in short supply, so all those things make it a leader.”If proven effective, “I think could make a huge difference for hospitals and individual patients,” Hohmann said.At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, there are two remdesivir trials. Both are part of the Gilead research push and are overseen by Francisco Marty from the infectious disease division. He is also an associate professor of medicine at HMS.The trials at the Brigham are random but not placebo controlled, Marty said. Both studies are trying to see whether patients recover quicker with the drug. One of the studies is for patients with moderate symptoms, meaning they need to be hospitalized but do not require a ventilator. Some of the patients in this study are randomly chosen to receive the drug for either five or 10 days while others get only supportive care. “It’s important to note that people who have come in like that already have been able to go home,” Marty said.The other study focuses on patients with severe infection who usually require a ventilator. They also get the drug for five or 10 days.“Of the things that we have available I think [remdesivir] is the best bet,” Marty said. “In a way, it’s kind of being able to attack, not just defend.”As part of the consortium, HMS’s Jonathan Abraham is tracking another line of promising treatment known as therapeutic antibodies, which the body’s immune system produces naturally to fight infections. That work involves taking plasma from recovered patients and using it to treat those still struggling.It’s an idea that’s more than 100 years old, and interest in it has grown as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of plasma from recovered patients to treat some severe cases on March 24. That followed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Monday that New York would begin testing plasma serum on the state’s sickest patients.Today’s technology allows for many targeted approaches to this, said Abraham, an assistant professor of microbiology at HMS and co-lead of the consortium’s therapeutic group.“We can actually dissect in the lab exactly what is the active fraction of the plasma [that can fight the disease],” he said. “Those are what used to be called antitoxins but are now known as neutralizing antibodies. They are effectively molecules that have activity against the specific pathogen. You can pick in the lab the antibodies you want to use or combinations of them to be given as antibody cocktails.”Researchers can also figure out which antibodies are the strongest, make vast artificial quantities to test in cell cultures, animals, humans, and finally use them in infected people or possibly use them to protect health care workers from contracting the disease. “There are a number of different labs across Harvard and affiliates that have started looking at using a variety of different tools to see if they can design new molecules to go after different targets against the virus.” — Mark Namchuk, Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness How the institute converted a clinical processing lab into a large-scale COVID-19 testing facility in a matter of days “I think all of the above [and more] are strategies that are being pursued across the consortium, in the HMS community, and beyond,” Abrahams said. Many of the efforts are currently being set up, he added.“There’s a major priority across the world now to develop these types of antibody-based therapies,” he said.At the Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, for example, George Church’s lab is using an existing antibody that binds to the spike protein of the coronavirus responsible for the 2003 SARS epidemic to engineer other antibodies capable of similarly neutralizing COVID-19.Other efforts at the Wyss Institute involve teams of researchers using human Organ-on-a-Chip technology, which are microfluidic devices lined with humans cells, to recreate the functions of human organs, including the lungs, and infecting it with a COVID-19 pseudovirus to test FDA-approved drugs and novel compounds that can be used to treat or prevent infection. Another team is using computational algorithms to predict chemical structures that could inhibit different aspects of the virus’ biology and pathology.Those efforts are similar to what’s happening at the labs of Gerhard Wagner and Haribabu Arthanari at the Blavatnik Institute at HMS. There, postdoctoral fellow Christoph Gorgulla developed an open-source computational platform called VirtualFlow that is capable of routinely screening billions of chemical compounds or molecules against a given target. In collaboration with Google, the platform is screening more than a billion compounds that could disrupt coronavirus proteins. It’s like stopping a moving car by targeting its tires or engine, explained Arthanari.In two weeks, they hope to have a list of compounds that can be further explored and tested.This line of research is called small molecule design. It is largely coordinated by Namchuk at the Consortium.“There are a number of different labs across Harvard and affiliates that have started looking at using a variety of different tools to see if they can design new molecules to go after different targets against the virus,” Namchuk said.Scientists at the Chan School are taking a more theoretical approach. Researchers are modeling the effects of different therapeutics — like chloroquine and remdesivir — and vaccines to see which might have substantial benefit on the progression of the pandemic, depending on their effectiveness, and when they can be deployed.“The modeling work is actually really important in trying to help us take steps forward and figure out how much we can expect from any one of these drugs [or vaccines],” said Sarah Fortune, the John LaPorte Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Chan School and director of the TB Research Program at the Ragon Institute of MGH, Harvard, and MIT. “It’s trying to help the public health system understand the implications of any one of these drugs that you hear about and help them guide what they need to be doing now and what they might expect six months from now.”At the Drug Repurposing Hub of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, scientists have opened their repository of more than 6,000 compounds, many of which are FDA-approved, to the Greater Boston scientific community and beyond, said Todd R. Golub, a founding member of the Broad and its chief scientific officer. Researchers at the Hub have spent years curating and verifying these compounds and are now making them available to many of those working to fight the novel coronavirus.“The other thing that we’re interested in doing is helping to collect the results of people screening the repurposing library and encouraging users to make those results publicly available,” said Golub, a professor of pediatrics at HMS. This is “so that the maximum number of people can benefit from what’s being learned as quickly as possible [and build on it].”Those sentiments echo the sense of shared purpose voiced by virtually all of the researchers involved in the disparate efforts.“The gravity of the situation has created, honestly, an unprecedented amount of openness and collaboration,” Namchuk said. “We’ve got things we’ve got to get done.” The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.last_img read more

Volunteers lauded

first_imgCelebrating by continuing to giveAcross the state, Master Gardeners will conduct special programs to celebrate the day, he said. In keeping with their mission, Master Gardeners in Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, Forsyth, Cherokee, Hall and Clarke counties will be giving their expertise at plant clinics in area Home Depot and Lowe’s stores. To see if your county offers the Master Gardener program, call the UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1. To learn more about the program, visit www.georgiamastergardener.com. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaMaster Gardeners across the state donate their time to help fellow gardeners in their areas. That time is considered priceless by the University of Georgia county agents who rely on them, but you can put a dollar value on it, says the program’s coordinator.Master Gardeners are a corps of volunteers, each trained by experts with UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to help other gardeners and answer their questions as needed year-round.”The training component is essential as the volunteers use their new expertise to help with a variety of gardening-related projects,” said Marco Fonseca, a UGA horticulturist and coordinator of the program. “Without the training, they wouldn’t be prepared to answer questions from gardeners who either call or come into their county agent’s office.”More than $3 million donated last yearLast year, 2,644 Georgia Master Gardeners donated 192,854 hours of their time to help UGA Extension agents help gardeners in their counties. “The federal government estimates volunteer hours to be worth $17.60 per hour,” said Fonseca. “Using this figure, the Master Gardeners’ time is valued at $3.4 million. When you figure in the value of their time and travel, Georgia Master Gardeners donated nearly $4 million last year.”To honor their service to the state, Gov. Sonny Perdue declared March 15 Master Gardener Day in Georgia.”Our Master Gardeners do everything from presenting plant clinics to speaking to garden clubs and writing newspaper articles,” said Fonseca. “Master Gardener volunteerism creates a far reaching ripple effect across our state, and once a year we stop to give them a special day of recognition.”last_img read more

Wm. Leroy “Lee” Humpert, 82

first_imgWm Leroy “Lee” Humpert, 82, of Greensburg, Indiana, passed on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, at Aspen Place. Lee was born December 12, 1937 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Cornelius and Alice (Toon) Humpert.  Lee was a graduate of Elder High School in 1956, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, College of Engineering in 1961, and a graduate of Xavier University’s MBA program in 1966. Lee served ten years in the US Army reserves. He married Diane Christine Mayr in 1960 and together they had four sons, and she survives.  Lee was employed by Cincinnati Incorporated, Black and Decker, York Wallcoverings, and Flexi, USA. Lee was an avid golfer, was a member of the TCA for many years, and a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus.  He was a member of St. Mary’s parish in Greensburg. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his sons, Todd William and Neal Christian. Survivors include his wife, sons, Lance Humpert of King of Prussia, PA and Scott (Cathy) Humpert of Dillsburg, PA, grandsons, Charles, Benjamin, and Nicholas Humpert, brother, Kenneth Neal (Laverne) Humpert of Harrison, Ohio and sister, April Goldfuss of Fayetteville, Ohio, sister-in-law, Judith L. (William) Miller of Cincinnati, Ohio and several nieces and nephews. Due to the recent public health safety mandate of limited gatherings a graveside blessing will be conducted at a later date by Father John Meyer for immediate family only. Memorials may be made to the Our Hospice of South Central Indiana, 946 E. Main St., Greensburg, IN 47240 or to St. Mary’s Church, 1331 E. Hunter Robbins Way, Greensburg, IN 47240. Online condolences can be made to the family at www.popfuneralhome.comlast_img read more

Cricket News Cheteshwar Pujara slams hundred in warm-up game vs West Indies A in Antigua

first_imghighlights For all the Latest Sports News News, Cricket News News, Download News Nation Android and iOS Mobile Apps. Ajinkya Rahane last scored a hundred in 2017 against Sri Lanka.Cheteshwar Pujara was the Man of the Series in India’s win in Australia.India will play two Tests against West Indies.center_img New Delhi: Cheteshwar Pujara warmed up for the upcoming two-Test series against West Indies in style by slamming a hundred on day one of the three-day warm-up game against West Indies A in Coolidge, Antigua on Saturday. Pujara was ably assisted by Rohit Sharma who hammered 68 and there were solid contributions from KL Rahul (36), Rishabh Pant (33) and Hanuma Vihari (37*) as India ended the day on 297/5. Virat Kohli did not bat on the opening day while Ajinkya Rahane, the skipper of the team for this match, fell cheaply for 1.Rahane’s dismissal has once again opened up a big debate about his form. The right-hander, who has been in wretched form for the past couple of years and also had a poor county stint with Hampshire, edged Jonathan Carter behind stumps to keeper-captain Jahmar Hamilton. He faced six deliveries before his dismissal. Rahane has gone without a hundred for the past two years. His last three-figure knock came against a below-par Sri Lanka side in August, 2017. In the last 12 Test matches, he has crossed half-century mark only five times in 20 innings. His place in the playing XI is not under threat at least for this two Test series but the same can’t be said for the home series against South Africa and Bangladesh at home if he happens to fail in the current series.On the other hand, Pujara has been in magnificent form in the Test arena in the last one year. In the series against England, his century in Trent Bridge allowed India to win the Test match despite losing the five-match series 4-1. However, in the series against Australia Down Under, Pujara was in sublime form scoring three centuries in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. His tally of 521 runs at an average of 74 played a massive part in India winning the four-match series 2-1 and securing a series win for the first time Down Under. The two-match Test series will be the first for both West Indies and India in the ongoing World Test Championship. The first Test will be played at the Sir Viv Richards stadium in Antigua on August 22 while the second Test will be played on August 30 at Kingston, Jamaica.RELATED last_img read more

Galway to bring case to Croke Park

first_imgHaving been rejected by Leinster, Galway hurling chiefs says they will take their case for improved terms and recognition in the Leinster championship to Croke park.Tribesmen CEO John Hynes says they want home games, an improved financial agreement and for their under 21’s and minors to be entered into Leinster or an equivalent structure.He says they’re not happy with the current situation especially at underage level.last_img