Wadsworth, Regeneron leading battle against COVID-19
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Source: Times Union
The Wadsworth Center, the state’s public health lab run by the Department of Health, has been at the forefront of testing for COVID-19. And Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, with manufacturing facilities and laboratories in Rensselaer County, is pursuing a treatment involving antibodies that would both ease symptoms in the sickest patients and potentially give temporary protection — weeks or a few months — to healthcare workers.
Both are playing significant roles as the effort to reverse the COVID-19 pandemic gathers steam.
Wadsworth received permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration back on Feb. 28 to make its own COVID-19 test available to hospitals using test equipment made by Wadsworth and private companies. Recently, the FDA allowed Wadsworth to outsource testing to private labs that it designates.
The Wadsworth test is known as the New York State Department of Public Health's New York SARS-CoV-2 Real-time Reverse Transcriptase (RT)-PCR Diagnostic Panel.
The FDA’s ruling allowed Wadsworth to significantly expand testing in the state. Previously, tests had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control. Wadsworth can now get test results itself in three to five hours, and now it is using private and hospital labs after receiving permission from the FDA to do so on March 10.
"Let the federal government decentralize the authority to the state governments and say to the state governments," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Friday. "God bless you, you can do authorized testing, you can authorize what's called automated testing which takes a lab capacity from like 30 tests a day to like 1,000 tests per day."
Wadsworth has begun using Northwell Health Labs on Long Island and BioReference Labs in New Jersey to help the state ramp up testing results, although they are just two of 28 labs, including those at hospitals, that Wadsworth will use for processing tests.
BioReference is the lab that opened a mobile testing location in New Rochelle that will process 500 tests a day. BioReference however has said it can do 5,000 tests a day for the entire state, a massive jump in New York's COVID-19 testing capabilities.
“Lab technicians at Wadsworth Center are working round the clock conducting testing for COVID-19,” DOH spokeswoman Jill Montag said.
Meanwhile, Regeneron is pursuing further clinical tests of an antibody that has provided some relief to COVID-19 patients.
"We are now actively planning a clinical trial in severe/critical COVID patients to evaluate Kevzara (sarilumab), our IL-6 inhibitor currently approved for rheumatoid arthritis," a Regeneron spokeswoman said Thursday. "This planned trial is based on promising data seen in China with another IL-6 inhibitor that showed a benefit in quickly reducing fever and increasing lung capacity in severe and critical hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
"We believe the severe lung inflammation seen in these advanced patients may be specifically IL-6 mediated," she said in an email.
Regeneron, which is based in Tarrytown, has said previously that it could have up to 200,000 doses of its treatment available by August. The company employs 3,000 people at its Rensselaer County facilities, where large-scale production would take place.
The University at Albany also has the RNA Institute, which has helped developed tests for the Ebola virus. The coronavirus is a type of RNA virus, and so studying RNA is critical for developing testing, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
"We make the early-stage discoveries and develop tools that other front line medical researchers and clinicians can translate into breakthroughs in human health," RNA Institute spokesman Vinny Reda said. "As such in the months and years ahead, our researchers will be working diligently to understand the role RNA plays in this health crisis and other critical events."
View All News »