Topic: Past successes can transform health care’s future
As soon as COVID-19 emerged, some scientists began developing potential treatments from scratch.
But many other scientists realized those development efforts — though much-needed — would probably take years. And patients didn’t have time to wait. Lives were hanging on the line. So researchers started testing whether any already-existing drugs and technologies might stave off the virus.
Their efforts paid off. Clinical trials showed that remdesivir, an antiviral originally developed to treat Ebola, could help hospitalized patients recover faster. Tocilizumab and sarilumab, two arthritis drugs, showed promise in treating patients with severe COVID-19. So did dexamethasone, a common steroid.
Scientists’ ingenuity saved thousands of lives. And their strategy — of using existing drugs and technologies in new ways — could help us overcome not just COVID-19, but future pandemics too.
I’ve seen firsthand how researchers are adapting existing technologies to fight COVID-19.
For example, medical professionals have long known that ultraviolet light, particularly the highest wavelength variety known as “ultraviolet A” light, can kill pathogens.
Many hospitals already use devices that emit UV light to disinfect surfaces. But since 2016, some scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have hypothesized that doctors could deploy these low-level rays inside a patient’s body to kill bacteria or viruses.
When COVID-19 struck, these researchers put their idea to the test. My company, Aytu BioScience, is hoping to commercialize their “Healight” device, which uses a catheter to deliver virus-killing UV light inside intubated COVID-19 patients. Researchers recently wrapped up a first round of clinical trials. If further trials prove successful, and the device gains regulatory clearance or authorization, it could potentially save many of the sickest COVID-19 patients’ lives.
Developing a new drug from scratch can take more than a decade. Often, waiting that long simply isn’t an option. That’s why older, underutilized technologies have so much potential.
Topic Discussed: Past successes can transform health care’s future