The University of Nebraska has released the newest episode of its "Leading Nebraska" podcast series, featuring the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s work in testing remdesivir, a drug treatment for COVID-19.
Although vaccines are now making their way to front-line workers, it’s critical to manage the health of patients already ill with COVID-19. The U.S. this week reached a new record high of 132,000-plus COVID-19 hospitalizations, well over the earlier records set in April 2020.
Dr. Andre Kalil, a UNMC internal medicine professor and an infectious diseases physician at Nebraska Medicine, led the first National Institutes of Health trial to evaluate experimental COVID-19 treatments, focusing on the anti-viral drug remdesivir.
Last February, UNMC experts watched as COVID-19 moved quickly through European countries and began planning for outbreaks to reach the United States. When that happened, UNMC was prepared to begin clinical trials. At the time, there were no proven and effective treatments for COVID-19, creating an opportunity to test remdesivir.
"We started the process of designing a study to find new therapies for a virus that, up to that time, we had never seen before," Dr. Kalil says in the podcast.
UNMC is uniquely qualified to lead the remdesivir study. The Medical Center has one of only a few biocontainment units in the country, which housed Ebola patients in 2014 and is housing COVID-19 patients today. UNMC also is home to globally recognized experts in managing and treating infectious disease, from bench research to on-the-ground training. The university’s newly opened Global Center for Health Security houses biopreparedness, infectious disease and research, education and clinical care facilities, as well as the National Quarantine Unit, the nation’s only federal quarantine facility.
UNMC started by testing remdesivir in a randomized, controlled trial and is now testing remdesivir in combination with a medication used to treat multiple sclerosis. While studies are ongoing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved remdesivir for treatment of COVID-19.
Dr. Kalil is motivated by the opportunity to make a difference.
"The hope is that we'll have multiple different treatments that we can use in different stages of the disease – alone or in combination," he says in the podcast. "That drives 100 percent of my professional motivation: making sure that I can make the lives of my patients better and that I can save them."
The NU system created the "Leading Nebraska" podcast to share stories of researchers, students and educators across its four campuses who are growing the state’s workforce and quality of life. Podcast topics include nursing, agricultural education, workforce development, cybersecurity, teacher education, national defense and others, featuring experts from UNK, UNL, UNO and UNMC.
Listeners may follow the "Leading Nebraska" podcast here.