A Pentagon agency is working to produce an antibody treatment to combat the novel coronavirus until a vaccine is ready.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a research and funding branch of the Defense Department known for its out-of-the-box innovations, aims to “make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security.” Its inventions include the internet, Siri, GPS, videoconferencing and even self-driving cars.
Now, DARPA is racing against time as experts warn of a likely second wave of the coronavirus this fall.
Dr. Amy Jenkins leads DARPA’s Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3). The program, which launched in 2018, works with outside researchers to develop a quick response to emerging infectious diseases with a goal of delivering medical countermeasures in 60 days. P3 is currently working with two universities, Duke and Vanderbilt, and two pharmaceutical companies, AbCellera and AstraZeneca, on a COVID-19 response.
Their primary focus is to create an antibody therapeutic, which Dr. Jenkins called a kind of “temporary vaccine” to prevent infection if individuals are exposed to COVID-19. Unlike a regular vaccine, which creates permanent immunity, this therapy would create immunity for several months. The intention is to utilize this treatment as a bridge until a vaccine is developed.
The antibody therapeutic would be immediately effective because the body starts producing antibodies within hours, as opposed to a traditional vaccine, which can take weeks.
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