CytoAgents working on drug to treat COVID-19

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Community and Economic Development introduced CytoAgents, a Ben Franklin Technology Partners company.

Officials said they're on the verge of developing the next leading drug candidate treat COVID-19, an oral drug called GP1681.

According to Teresa Whalen, CEO of CytoAgents, this drug combats cytokine storm.

"A cytokine storm is an overreaction of our immune system causing overwhelming inflammation, disease and deaths," she said.

Whalen said COVID-19 and influenza are some common infectious causes of cytokine storm.

She said phase one of the GP1681 clinical trial is ongoing, focusing on the safety and dosage of the drug.

"We have successfully completed our first cohort with positive results. This has enabled us to go directly into cohort #2 we began dosing those patients just this very week," she said.

Whalen said  a combination of vaccines, testing and long-lasting treatments will be the future for respiratory epidemics.

"Because our drug treats the underlying causes of illness, viral mutation is not an issue with GP1681 we will continue to be beneficial despite any future mutation," said Whalen.

She said GP1681 is cost effective, estimating its cost to be in the hundreds, with easy access to the public.

Area hospitals are reacting to this news.

UPMC released this statement that said, "UPMC is always excited about any new potential option to treat our COVID-19 patients. If the CytoAgents treatment is approved, we would review clinical evidence as it becomes available to decide how to use it to treat our patients, as we have done with all other proposed agents for this infection."

Penn Highlands Healthcare also released a statement that said,  "We understand this new treatment is currently undergoing clinical trials and are pleased to see progress being made in the research of possible COVID-19 treatments...we continue to investigate new COVID-19 treatment options to remain at the forefront of care for our patients."

Mt. Nittany Health's Chief Medical Officer, Nirmal Joshi released a statement saying, "We are always hopeful when we hear about potential new treatments in the fight against COVID-19. At this time, however, there are too few details available on this particular treatment to know whether it would be something used to treat COVID positive patients at Mount Nittany Medical Center. As with any potential COVID-19 treatment option, we will continue to follow its development and guidance from the FDA and CDC."

With proper funding, Whalen said they hope to start Phase 2 trials at the beginning of next year.

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