Sarasota Memorial Hospital first in Florida to offer experimental, dual-action antibody treatment for virus

Early lab tests show promising results, SMH’s chief of infection prevention and control says

Dr. Manual Gordillo responds to a question during a June 9 interview regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Image from YouTube, courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Hospital

Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) has joined a multi-national trial that is testing a new dual-action antibody treatment designed to reduce the severity, and potentially stop the spread, of COVID-19, the hospital has announced.

On July 9, SMH became the first hospital in Florida to offer Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ experimental treatment (REGN-COV2) to COVID-19 patients who meet the study criteria, a news release explained. “The trial initially is open to hospitalized patients, but it could be expanded … for non-hospitalized patients with milder symptoms,” the release added.

Dr. Manuel Gordillo, medical director of Sarasota Memorial’s Infection Prevention and Control Program, is leading the initiative, the release said.

“We’re very excited about this trial, which involves the first antiviral antibody cocktail specifically designed to attack a critical part of the coronavirus, the spike protein that attaches to human cells,” said Gordillo in the release. “In early laboratory tests, it completely obliterated the coronavirus at relatively low concentrations.”

“Sarasota Memorial is one of three hospitals in Florida and among 150 research sites in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Chile participating in Phase 2/3 trials, which follow positive results demonstrated in a Phase 1 safety trial,” the release pointed out. “A separate trial to evaluate the antiviral antibody cocktail’s ability to prevent infection among uninfected people who have had close exposure to a COVID-19 patient (such as a patient’s housemate)” also would get underway soon, the release added.

“Sarasota Memorial CEO David Verinder credited the experience and expertise of SMH physicians and research nurses for bringing yet another important therapy option for local patients infected with the virus,” the release continued.

“As hospitalizations increase, we thankfully have a greater understanding of COVID-19 and more potential treatment options than at the start of the pandemic,” Verinder said in the release.

“Earlier this year, SMH participated in a national study to assess the antiviral drug remdesivir, which has had promising results,” the release noted. “Now that the trial has ended, however, the drug is in short supply,” the release pointed out, so SMH and other hospitals around the state have been awaiting new shipments of the medication.

“SMH also has been participating in a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of convalescent plasma,” the release said. “The study, which uses plasma donated by individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat current hospitalized patients, has also had encouraging results,” the release pointed out. “To date, SMH has given the plasma to 36 patients, but is now facing a critical shortage. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to contact the Suncoast Blood Centers to see if they qualify to donate plasma,” the release added.

Call the center at 941-993-8119 or email for more information, the release said.