Durham-based biotech company fast tracks treatment aimed at COVID-19’s effects on younger patients

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham-based Chimerix is on the fast track to saving lives of COVID-19 patients as experts learn more about deadly side effects for younger people.

“We’ve essentially re-positioned the company to focus on getting this up and running in a matter of a few weeks,” said Chimerix CEO Mike Sherman.

The drug DSTAT is a derivative of the blood thinner Heparin. It was already in development for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. After the coronavirus outbreak, researchers found that it helps young patients who suffer strokes and lose limbs due to blood clots.

“There is still anticoagulant activity, but it’s not as extreme and it allows you to potentially to tap that middle ground between having strong anti-inflammatory activity and also anticoagulant activity,” Sherman said. “The mechanism by which it essentially interrupts and treats the coagulation disorders that are showing up with strokes.”

The inflammation occurs in some patients as their immune system goes into overdrive.

Broadway actor Nick Cordero is an example. His wife continues to document his struggle to survive.

“The problem is when that’s overactive, it creates this framework for clots to form. So, by interrupting or moderating that immune response, you could potentially prevent those clotting issues,” Sherman said.

DSTAT has already been given clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to enroll patients for a Phase 2/3 clinical trial. The trial is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

“When you are on a mission like this where the objective is to try to save lives and help these patients, when you see the stories and when you talk to physicians about what it’s like to experience the severe form of this disease, it’s a pretty easy mission to get around and get your arms around and be supportive of,” Sherman said.

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