The Greek head of research for the coronavirus vaccine in New York
Dr. Christos Kyratsous, vice president and head of research on infectious diseases and technology at Regeneron, is in charge of research into the coronavirus vaccine in New York.
The 39-year-old scientist, who was included in the Business Insider magazine as one of the 30 people worldwide who are expected to transform the future of health services, is the one who found the cure for Ebola a few years ago, saving the lives of hundreds of people who were one step away from death.
The Greek researcher is originally from Kozani, studied at the Department of Pharmacy of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, while, in 2004, he did his doctorate at Columbia University in New York and then went to NYU for two years.
Christos Kyratsous was honored in 2009 for his academic performance with the Columbia University School of Medicine Award (2009 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research) and, in 2011, began working at Regeneron in the United States, where he remains to this day.
In August 2014, the Ebola epidemic was on the rise in Africa and the company began research. The research team, whose Dr. Kyratsous was in charge of research into the selection of antibodies, until Christmas, had found the three antibodies needed to develop a successful treatment.
In early 2015, antibodies were successfully used in animal models and although that summer epidemic was in remission, in 2018, when there was a new outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the team of the Greek scientist was ready. In collaboration with the World Medicines Agency, Médecins Sans Frontières and other groups, they have been able to quickly use antibodies in patients.
Survival rates after infection with the Ebola virus were very low, at 30%, and clinical trials in infected individuals revealed that the REGN-EB3 (antibody mixture) survival rose to 70%. Their treatment worked and saved hundreds of people from the virus.
The US National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which was involved in drug testing, spoke of “very good news”, according to the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian and the New York Times. As the director of NIAID, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “they are the first drugs that, in a scientifically reliable study, clearly showed a significant reduction in mortality.”
A total of four drugs were tested as of November 2018 in about 700 patients in the Republic of Congo, where there was a significant spread of the virus and nearly 1,900 people died in 2019. The two drugs (REGN-EB3 by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and mAb114 by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics), which attack the virus through monoclonal antibodies, have been shown to be much more effective than the other two (ZMpp and Remdesivir) and are now widely used.
In 2020, in view of the COVID 19 pandemic, Dr. Christos Kyratsous and his team in New York use the same platform to create antibodies as in the Ebola hemorrhagic virus.
“If, for example,” explains the Greek scientist, “someone is infected with the coronavirus, their immune system will make antibodies against the virus. We try to emulate this process and produce the most effective antibodies, which when given to a patient will stick to the virus and stop it from spreading.
These antibodies are very specialized and we hope they can be given to people who both haven’t been infected with the virus as a precaution, as well as in already patients, in order to reduce coronary levels and improve their symptoms. We are in a phase where we are almost done with the selection of these antibodies. We had thousands of antibodies and chose the 2 that have the most action. We hope that in the coming weeks we will start producing these antibodies in large quantities, so that we can start clinical trials in humans in early summer. ”
The team uses exactly the same technologies it used to make antibodies against Ebola. They showed in a clinical trial that antibodies work and reduce mortality against this virus and hope that with the same technologies they will achieve something similar and that the antibodies they will develop for the coronavirus will prove to be just as effective.
Antibodies will be given to the body by injections that can be given at home like insulin. However, if someone needs a large number of antibodies, the administration will be done in hospitals with intravenous infusion.
At the beginning of the summer, clinical trials will begin for antibodies that maybe the drug’s “response” to the coronavirus by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
At the same time, Dr. Kyratsous reports that the drug “Kevzara”, a derivative of the “Sarilumab” antibodies from “Regeneron” in collaboration with “Sanofi”, which is released for arthritis, is already being tested in hospitals in New York, in order to examine its inhibitory effect on pneumonia. This drug has the ability to block a protein, interleukin, and as there are reports that interleukin 6 plays an important role in pneumonia, for people in the late stages, the company is already running a clinical trial in many hospitals to see if this drug has an effect on patients with coronary heart disease, to improve their symptoms.
The long-term plan is vaccines, which, when made available, they hope will be able to provide long-term immunity and protect large groups of the population for many years. The schedule provides for availability within one to one and a half years.
When asked about the conditions under which a coronavirus can become a treatable infection and be completely eliminated in the future, Dr. Christos Kyratsous answers that if all people on the planet get vaccinated, then the coronavirus can be completely eliminated. Vaccines belong to the category of prevention, so if they have successful results, it can be completely eliminated. “When there are no vaccines, we have to give drugs and antibodies to a large part of the population in order to stop its transmission or to stay on drugs that simply reduce side effects and mortality.”
The success of the Greek researcher makes Greece proud once again. It is no coincidence that Business Insider magazine has put him among the 30 young leaders to change the future of healthcare worldwide.