The president, on Wednesday, emerged from the White House hotspot to announce what he called a cure for COVID-19. With 23 days before the election, Mr. Trump said he became aware of the cure after ordering his doctors to give him an experimental drug. His idea, he said. No one but President Trump is claiming a cure for COVID-19. But labs around the world are racing to develop therapeutic drugs to reduce the severity of the disease. We’re going to tell you about some of the most promising leads for treating COVID-19, today.
Scott Pelley: The president said this past week that we shouldn’t be afraid of the virus.
Dr. David Ho: Well, I think we should be fearful of what this virus could do to an infected person. Over a million people have died. And over 200,000 Americans have died. We have to give this virus its due respect.
If you don’t know the name David Ho, your memory is too short. Dr. Ho led the team in the 1990’s that created the cocktail of drugs that made HIV/AIDS survivable even though there’s still no vaccine.
His lab at Columbia University was still focused on HIV/AIDS until COVID-19.
Dr. David Ho: You could say it’s now worse than ever with about 100,000 new cases per day worldwide. So, we don’t have it under control.
Ho’s team moved into dorms vacated by students who are studying at home so they could work 24/7 on monoclonal antibodies — a complex name for a simple idea. A COVID patient’s immune system creates antibodies to attack the virus. Those antibodies can be harvested, cloned and reproduced in the billions.
Dr. David Ho: For example, we could clone out 250-some antibodies from five infected persons. And then just systematically characterize them in the laboratory to see which ones have the best properties in terms of neutralizing or inactivating the virus.
Scott Pelley: How effective have monoclonal antibodies been?
Dr. David Ho: They are promising. There are two front-runners who have developed antibody. One is Lilly– Eli Lilly and Company. And the other is Regeneron. And the president received the Regeneron product. These are very powerful antibodies. And both Lilly and Regeneron have reported promising preliminary results. But I must emphasize, preliminary.
President Trump in White House video: It’s a cure for me. I walked in. I didn’t feel good. A short 24 hours later, I was feeling great.
It was antibody therapy from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals that Mr. Trump called a cure. But the facts are these. Last month, Regeneron and the Eli Lilly company reported early results. In a small group of 275 patients, Regeneron showed a modest reduction in virus. In 452 patients, Lilly’s antibodies reduced hospitalization from 6% to under 2%.
Scott Pelley: What will it take to have more confidence in the results for monoclonal antibodies?
Dr. David Ho: Well, these are ongoing studies. They, I think, are going to enroll thousands of these patients. They have only entered the clinic in June, July. So we need to give it more time.
Antibody clones are grown in massive tanks. Brewing millions of doses would be a vast industrial project and expensive. But if an antibody therapy is approved, each patient would likely need only one dose.
Dr. David Ho: The antibodies are generally just given as an infusion of over ten, 15 minutes intravenously.
Scott Pelley: Is it clear that the monoclonal antibodies are safe?
Dr. David Ho: Well, these two that have been administered now to a number of people, they don’t seem to have any side effects. And in general, monoclonal antibody therapies for cancer, inflammation and other diseases have been quite safe.
Now labs, including David Ho’s, are searching thousands of natural antibodies from patients to find lethal combinations against the…