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UW-Madison researchers working on COVID-19 treatment

MADISON (WKOW) -- Scientists at UW-Madison are working with GigaGen, a California company, to develop a drug that will treat COVID-19 with antibodies.

Carl Ross is the director of Waisman Biomanufacturing, which is affiliated with the university. He says the drug, GIGA-2050, is different from a vaccine because it won't provide long-term immunity.

"It won't last very long," he said. "Once they give the drug, the antibodies will eventually be cleared out of the blood just like even your red blood cells are."

The drug works in a similar way as convalescent plasma, which comes from people who are recovering from an infection.

Ross said the drug will use antibodies to bind to parts of the COVID-19 virus, which will help the body clear out the infection.

"This has the advantage of being able to neutralize the virus," he said.

Some drugs only have one antibody, but Ross said GIGA-2050 will have thousands, which will make it more versatile.

"The hope is that it would be more effective against different strains, different versions of it or just a single strain because you're binding or targeting multiple regions of the viral protein," he said.

Ross said the drug also differs from vaccines because it will most likely be used to treat people who already have COVID-19 rather than healthy people.

However, he said it could prevent the more severe reactions to COVID-19, which sometimes lead to death.

Ross said he expects the drug to enter clinical trials in early 2021. He said even though he thinks the FDA will fast track GIGA-2050, it will probably be at least a year until the drug is commercially available.

Waisman Biomanufacturing is working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine with a different company.

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