A star of Netflix’s ‘Pandemic’ turns focus to COVID-19 therapeutics

Final January, Netflix premiered the docuseries Pandemic: How to Forestall an Outbreak. Below regular circumstances, it’d’ve been of curiosity to a comparatively area of interest viewers. However on the time, it was changing into clear that the novel coronavirus had not been sufficiently contained in China and that with out correct and enforced pointers and protocols from different international locations, the world was staring down a devastating public well being disaster. Pandemic spent 12 days within the Netflix high 10 in the US final March.

Quick ahead to at the moment—with greater than 105 million instances of COVID-19 and effectively over 2 million deaths globally—and rewatching Pandemic seems like a fever dream of shoulda, woulda, coulda, didn’t.

“You see that the international locations that took it actually critically early did effectively: South Korea, New Zealand, Australia,” says Dr. Jacob Glanville, founder and CEO of the therapeutics firm Centivax and one of the scientists profiled in Pandemic. “That signifies the significance of centralized management and insurance policies in having the ability to include this factor. And that’s one thing we’d like to take into consideration very fastidiously in 2021.”

Even with a quantity of vaccines permitted and being distributed, what Glanville desires extra individuals to take into consideration in 2021—most significantly, authorities and well being officers—is antibody remedy.


Antibody remedy is supposed to deal with a affected person who’s already sick by utilizing a molecule to neutralize the virus, whereas a vaccine is a preventative measure to mitigate the chance of contracting the virus within the first place. Glanville acknowledges that each approaches are important within the case of mitigating the pandemic stemming from a virus as infectious as SARS-CoV-2. However since March, the prevailing dialog—and the majority of funding—has been round growing a vaccine.

“No person knew what the hell a monoclonal antibody therapeutic was a 12 months in the past. Everyone is aware of what a vaccine is,” Glanville says. “The issue is just not sufficient individuals are going to obtain a vaccine.”

Since vaccine distribution started in December, greater than 35 million doses have been administered in the US, reaching 8.4% of the full inhabitants. Aggressive measures to rollout out the 2 main vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are certainly underway (to various levels of success). However consultants say to obtain herd immunity, 70% to 80% of individuals would want to get vaccinated—a quantity that turns into tougher to hit because the virus mutates and turns into more and more resistant, not to point out rampant skepticism of the vaccine itself and the nonetheless cumbersome measure of having to take a number of doses that would put on off over time.

[Photo: courtesy of Jake Glanville]

Along with the vaccine, antibody remedy is being seen as a viable choice to handle the overwhelming quantity of individuals already affected with the virus, which Glanville was stunned wasn’t high of thoughts for main well being officers on the onset of the pandemic. “It’s unclear to me why the federal government spent a lot cash on so many various teams for vaccines, however gave all their cash to two companies for antibody therapies [Lilly and Regeneron],” says Glanville.

In November, the FDA issued an emergency authorization for monoclonal antibodies therapies. And medical trials are certainly exhibiting promising outcomes.

Nonetheless, Glanville thinks he has a extra handy and cost-effective strategy that would disrupt COVID-19 therapies.


In Pandemic, Glanville and his staff have been trying to create a common flu vaccine, and their work confirmed promise with profitable trials in pigs and earned a grant from the Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis. And whereas they’re allocating assets towards a common COVID-19 vaccine, Glanville says that his instant focus final January was on antibody remedy, i.e. using the antibodies from the SARS-CoV virus (aka SARS) and adapting them to higher acknowledge SARS-CoV-2.


“These antibodies have already had years of analysis on them that present that they will bind SARS. They neutralize SARS. They defend animals from SARS,” he says. “So we are able to adapt those self same working medication to then work on the novel coronavirus.”

Glanville introduced his strategy to the Protection Superior Analysis Initiatives Company (DARPA) in early 2020. “[They were] like, this appears to be like cool, however we’ve already given our cash to someone else,” he recollects. “And I made a decision, you realize what? Fuck it. We’re going to do that anyway.”

Lately, Glanville’s efforts have been bolstered by a $104 million acquisition from pharmaceutical firm Charles River Laboratories in January.

Centivax’s strategy to antibody remedy is distinct in two methods: First, Glanville says they’ve been in a position to focus their antibodies to the purpose the place it may be administered in a shot as opposed to Lilly and Regeneron’s therapies that have to be given by means of an IV.

“The issue is, should you get sick, you name the hospital and also you say, ‘I want an IV.’ Anybody who may give you an IV is busy coping with extra sick sufferers. So that you’re triaged out,” he says. With Centivax’s injectable model, a affected person may go to a clinic or perhaps a pharmacy for his or her shot, easing the burden on overtaxed hospitals.

Second, Glanville and his staff have managed to flip off an antibody’s capacity to trigger an inflammatory response that usually leaves sufferers feeling far worse than earlier than a therapy. “Antibodies bind to the virus to neutralize it,” Glanville says. “However the issue is antibodies additionally recruit your immune system cells to go freak out at no matter they’re binding to, releasing hazard indicators referred to as cytokines. They create native irritation of tissue, and they’re going to even assault.”

Usually, that’s a manageable sufficient situation if the assault is on a non-vital organ. Nonetheless, SARS-CoV-2 has been proven to bind 10 to 20 times more strongly than SARS-CoV and may assault a number of components of the physique.

“It’s like if you go mountain climbing and burrs get caught throughout your socks. It’s like that in your coronary heart tissue; it’s in your nerves, it’s in your lungs,” Glanville says. “It’s laborious to your immune system to tease out simply the virus with out unintentionally attacking the tissues as effectively. For all these causes, my feeling was to flip off the effector capabilities.”


Glanville says he gained’t have a agency grasp on the true efficacy of his strategy till he completes section two of his research in mid-to-late summer time this 12 months.

“We’re comparatively assured we’re going to be those which have the medication that may really work in a hospital, which might be a sport changer,” he says.

Additionally half of his disruptive technique is to make antibody remedy inexpensive.


The Trump administration paid Lily $375 million for 300,000 doses of its antibody drug, which boils down to $1,250 per dose.

Glanville estimates that Centivax’s model would solely be $900 per dose, and, he says, it’ll price even much less with authorities help.

Lilly and Regeneron have been testing 2.8 grams and eight grams, respectively, per affected person of their IV antibodies of their research. “That’s so much,” Glanville says. “However should you may give an injection early on, proper if you first get sick, you may give like half a gram or a gram. So you may make extra doses. You can also make a life-saving drugs for lower than the fee of an iPhone and make it routinely accessible exterior of a hospital.”

Glanville estimates the US would want 30,000 to 60,000 doses per 30 days, with the remaining of the world needing 5 instances that. However he believes that’s completely doable by making the drug simple to use, accessible, and by driving down the fee per dosage. “There now is a chance to go begin mass manufacturing these sorts of medicines,” Glanville continues, “and make them inexpensive so it’s extra accessible to the world.”