Study looks to develop treatment for COVID-19


Huntsville Hospital, HudsonAlpha and iRepertoire utilize local patients to study antibody response to the disease

April 29, 2020 (Huntsville, AL) – Huntsville Hospital, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and iRepertoire, Inc., a diagnostic technology company located on the HudsonAlpha campus, are studying local patients diagnosed with COVID-19 under a Huntsville Hospital IRC approved protocol to learn how the human immune system responds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with hopes for developing an effective treatment for the disease.

“The most effective way to stop pandemics is with vaccines,” says Rick Myers, PhD, president and scientific director for HudsonAlpha. “However, the pipeline for vaccine production from development, to testing, to market can take years. A COVID-19 treatment is the best way to bridge the gap until a vaccine is widely available.”

Area participants who have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19 will be recruited by a research coordinator to participate in the study. The patients will provide blood samples at four time points over a series of weeks in order to gauge how their immune system is responding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers at HudsonAlpha and iRepertoire hope the results of the study can be used to find and test possible treatments or cures for COVID-19 by using antibodies identified in these patients.

“The immune system is nature’s best doctor,” says Jian Han, MD, PhD, founder and chief scientific officer of iRepertoire. “By understanding the immune system of patients that have effectively fought the pathogen, we can pinpoint the exact identity of cells that effectively eliminate the virus out of millions of possibilities.” 

The proteins that these cells produce, called antibodies or immunoglobulins, can potentially serve as a therapeutic vaccine that is administered after infection. 

“We are pleased to work with HudsonAlpha and iRepertoire in the critical challenge of developing a treatment for COVID-19 and ultimately, a vaccine,” said David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital Health System.

The recent emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 present a tremendous and unprecedented challenge for global health. There is no treatment, no vaccine, and testing cannot keep up with demand. With reported infections approaching 3 million worldwide and nearly 200,000 deaths, SARS-CoV-2 is spreading very easily and sustainably between people, even by silent carriers who are infected but have no symptoms. 

About Huntsville Hospital Health System: Huntsville Hospital has operated as a community-owned hospital since 1895. Today, the hospital is the second largest facility in the state and the centerpiece of a multi-hospital Health System across north Alabama, serving as the regional referral and trauma center for more than a million residents of the Tennessee Valley. Huntsville Hospital Health System operates hospitals in Huntsville, Madison, Athens, Decatur, Boaz-Albertville, Guntersville-Arab, Sheffield, and Red Bay. The Health System includes more than 2,000 licensed beds for patient care and employs more than 15,000 persons.

About HudsonAlpha: The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute that combines research, education, health and commercialization to improve the human condition around the globe. Scientists apply the power of genomics to make research advances in disease and agriculture; and collaborate with a team of educators to create a more genomically-informed society while training the STEM workforce. Opened in 2008, HudsonAlpha is uniquely positioned to translate scientific breakthroughs into market-ready solutions by co-locating entrepreneurs from around the globe to its campus. More than 40 companies in all stages of development are part of HudsonAlpha’s continuously growing state-of-the-art campus located in Cummings Research Park, the second largest research park in the nation. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit hudsonalpha.org.

About iRepertoire: Founded in 2009, iRepertoire was the first company to develop and commercialize immune repertoire sequencing technology and products. Over the past decade, iRepertoire has developed PCR multiplexing technologies specifically catered towards immune repertoire sequencing. The company’s core technologies, bioinformatics, and automation platforms provide everything you need to reveal the unique imprint the external environment leaves behind. To learn more about iRepertoire, visit https://irepertoire.com/

Media contacts:
HudsonAlpha 
Lara Kohl Burhenn                                                                
lburhenn@hudsonalpha.org                                                  
214-232-2246 

Huntsville Hospital
Sue Esslinger
sue.esslinger@hhsys.org
256-265-8317