Jodie Cohen
Political consultant, commentator & author, 'Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19'

Some potentially positive COVID news?

President Reuven Rivlin visits the IIBR to hear about its scientific breakthroughs, 07.05.20 (Photo credit: Koby Gideon, GPO)

At last – the good news we’ve been waiting for – the Israeli Institute of Biological research has announced that it is expecting to start testing its potential COVID-19 vaccine on humans in October.

What does this mean?

It means that its vaccine candidate is hopefully heading towards the successful conclusion of its animal testing phase. The vaccine is based on antibodies taken from the cells of patients who have recovered from the coronavirus.

In June, the Institute announced that it had tested its potential vaccine on hamsters. One group of hamsters received the vaccine candidate, and the other didn’t, and all were exposed to the coronavirus. Thankfully, those who had received the vaccine fared well, while the other group didn’t.

The Institute then said it would progress towards testing on larger animals. The fact that it is already saying it expects to begin the human testing stage of the trials after the Jewish holidays is a positive sign.

And you may have seen more good news over the past few days, with Edward Pierce, Broadway’s set designer for Wicked, conducting interviews in the media. He is the first patient in the US to have received placenta cell therapy for COVID-19. The therapy comes from a Haifa-based company, which has received permission to test its potential coronavirus treatment on patients ‘at severe risk of dying’ from virus complications.

Pluristem Therapeutics Ltd is an Israeli biotech company, which treats patients using cells from placentas – in fact, just one placenta can help treat 20,000 patients with various conditions, such as COVID-19 complications, peripheral artery disease and muscle injury.

The company recently announced a 28-day follow up study on the COVID-19 patients in Israel and the US, who were all at severe risk of dying and who had received placenta therapy. The study showed that, like Pierce, 87% of those treated were still alive after four weeks.

These are very promising developments, and come at a time when optimism (based on reality) is more important than ever, with coronavirus cases still rising around the world.

Vaccines and treatments take time to develop, and can often take several years. The world’s health regulatory bodies are working hard to speed up the process, and if a vaccine is developed in a year or two, it will have broken all records. In addition, it will take time to create enough vaccines for the billions of people who will need / want them.

This isn’t a winner takes all race. Some vaccines and treatments will work on some populations, while others will be needed for others. Despite rising numbers, these efforts towards developing safe and effective vaccines and treatments are surely a cause for optimism.

You can find out more about both the IIBR and Pluristem in ‘Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19’, available on Amazon and at other online and retail stores around the world.

About the Author
Jodie Cohen is an award-winning public affairs consultant and TV political commentator. She is the author of 'Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19', which features over 30 innovations developed during the two months of lockdown in Israel. A proud British Israeli, she is also slightly obsessed with India!
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