INDIANAPOLIS — From the start of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials and medical researchers have searched for a way to effectively treat the disease.
Local residents will have an opportunity to be part of that effort through the work of two local health care companies.
Eli Lilly and Co. has teamed up with southside hospitals Franciscan Health Indianapolis and Community Hospital South to test a drug that could mitigate the impact of the virus and potentially save lives. The partnership is now looking for adults to participate in a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of the antibody treatment drug.
Known as the BLAZE-1 Study, officials are looking for adults ages 18 and older who have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are not hospitalized.
“Myself and my partners, day in and day out, are seeing patients with COVID and observing first-hand the horrible morbidity and mortality of this infection,” said Dr. Imad Shawa, pulmonary critical care specialist and principal investigator for the Franciscan’s study site. “To be able to care for the patients and potentially to be part of the solution for this, everyone in our institution is honored and excited to be part of this.”
The BLAZE-1 Study is sponsored by Lilly, and is focused on the drug, LY-CoV555, engineered as an antibody therapy from one of the first individuals to recover from COVID-19. The antibodies focus on a protein on the surface of the coronavirus that causes the disease.
“That protein is utilized by the virus to gain access to the cells,” Shawa said. “What the hope is, that by blocking that protein with the antibody therapy, the ability of the virus to connect to the cells will be stopped or decreased. By doing that, we can prevent the virus from replicating and regenerating, and change the course of the disease.”
Antibody medications such as LY-CoV555 have been used to treat a number of health conditions in recent years, including cancers, autoimmune disorders and other infectious diseases.
Trials on the medication are being conducted at 24 hospitals throughout the country. Franciscan Health Indianapolis and Community Hospital South are the only research sites in Indiana currently recruiting patients, though Franciscan Health Hammond will be recruiting in the near future, according to a news release from the hospital system.
In order to participate in the BLAZE-1 Study, patients must have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 within three days prior to the study drug infusion. They must also have one or more mild to moderate symptoms of the disease, including fever, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle pain, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea or shortness of breath while active.
If a person is eligible and decides to participate, research staff with Franciscan Health will perform specific tests and procedures to monitor the patient’s health and how their body reacts to treatment with LY-CoV555. Potential tests include physical exams, vital sign measurements, blood samples and swabs of the nasal cavity.
The study drug is being compared to a placebo, and both the drug and the placebo will be administered as a single-dose intravenous infusion, according to the news release. Participants will be randomly selected to receive the placebo or the study drug.
“Kicking off the BLAZE-1 Study with research sites around the country, including Franciscan Health, is a huge milestone for the global fight against COVID-19, and we’re excited to bring the industry one step closer to a potential treatment,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working with eligible patients who are not only interested in receiving investigational treatments for COVID-19, but who also understand how their participation can impact the health and well-being of millions of people around the world.”