Local research center works to develop COVID-19 vaccine, treatment

Evolution Research Group is looking for participants for its trial.

ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Researchers are desperately trying to find a vaccine for COVID-19 as the coronavirus death toll rises across the country.

Here in Northwest Arkansas, a group was chosen to be a part of Operation Warp Speed, an initiative by the Trump Administration to speed up the search for a vaccine.

But, it’s finding treatment may be the better solution in controlling the virus.

“We’re doing vaccine trials, we’re doing treatment trials, prevention trials,” said Dr. Daniel Gruener, the chief medical officer of Evolution Research Group. “So, we’re really at the forefront of this pandemic.”

Evolution Research Group was chosen to be a part of Operation Warp Speed to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

“Even the prospect of having a vaccine by the end of the year or early next year is incredible,” Dr. Gruener said. “But, we can’t just wait and focus on vaccine trials. Treatment trials, in my opinion, are just as important.”

Three of the group’s sites were selected by the company Regeneron for trials, one of those being Woodland Research Northwest in Rogers.

“This could be the bridge that buys us time until a vaccine is developed,” he said.

Woodland Research Northwest is using Regeneron, which was used to treat President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump
ARCHIVO – En esta fotografía de archivo del 2 de octubre de 2020, el presidente Donald Trump saluda a la prensa cuando salía de la Casa Blanca hacia el Centro Médico Militar Nacional Walter Reed después de que diera positivo al COVID-19 en Washington. (AP Foto/Alex Brandon, Archivo)

Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “I think it’s a reasonably good chance that the antibody he received, the Regeneron antibody made a significant difference in a positive way in his course.”

People in exceptional circumstances, like the president, can use the experimental drug. But, it still hasn’t been approved by the FDA.

It’s only available to the public through trials like this one.

So what’s inside it?

Dr. Daniel Gruener said, “Regeneron is working with the technology called monoclonal antibodies and these are antibodies that are basically proteins that target spike proteins on the surface of the virus and they stop these proteins from entering a whole cell- thereby impeding the whole cell getting infected.”

In this undated image from video provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, vials are inspected at the company’s facilities in New York state, for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug. Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help the immune system eliminate it. (Regeneron via AP)

He said risks associated with the trial will be discussed with participants.

“Things are not getting better, on a national level or a global level,” he said. “We need treatments like this and we need to know for sure if they are safe or effective.

Dr. Gruener is looking for participants who do not have the virus and are in an at-risk group.

You can sign up by calling (479) 326-7710.

This type of medical research does have its share of controversy.

You may have seen news outlets reporting that Regeneron uses human fetal tissue in its COVID-19 treatment.

Dr. Gruener said that is true, but he says the stem cells are harvested from waste embryos from fertility clinics, not terminated pregnancies.

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