Hummelstown-based Biotech Company, Penn State College of Medicine at Forefront of COVID-19 Treatment, Vaccine
HARRISBURG – Apogee Biotechnology Corp., of Hummelstown, and Penn State College of Medicine at Hershey Medical Center have been awarded grants to develop a treatment and vaccine for the novel coronavirus, Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) announced Friday.

Apogee Biotechnology Corp. was awarded $306,250 for a potential treatment through the COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments and Therapies (CV-VTT) program. Penn State College of Medicine was awarded $415,720 through the same program for a potential vaccine based on neutralizing antibodies to key proteins.

“It is no understatement to say COVID-19 is the public health crisis of our lifetime,” Mehaffie said. “I’m so incredibly proud that health care leaders in the 106th District are at the forefront of treatment and vaccine research.”

Apogee Biotechnology Corp. discovered the drug opaganib at its laboratories in the Hershey Center for Applied Research and was developing it originally for various cancers. Identifying the drug also has excellent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties also makes it an exciting potential treatment for COVID-19, according to Dr. Lynn Maines, vice president for Research and Business Affairs for Apogee.

Opaganib is now in the midst of clinical trials in the United States and elsewhere around the world to evaluate its treatment in severe COVID-19 patients, with the clinical trials being led by RedHill Biopharma, corporate partner of Apogee, Maines said.

Because opaganib has already safely been evaluated in over 140 patients, mostly those with cancer, the Food and Drug Administration allowed for COVID-19 clinical trials to start more quickly in the United States. It is now in a U.S. trial of 40 severe COVID-19 patients, with results expected in September.

“Opaganib is delivered orally via a capsule, which makes availability and administering it easier than some other methods. Six severe COVID-19 patients were given opaganib in Israel, and all of them recovered nicely without the use of a ventilator,” Maines said.

Funding for the CV-VTT program was appropriated from Act 2A of 2020, which was the COVID-19 Emergency Supplement to the General Appropriation Act of 2019. The funding was designated for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the program is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of Technology and Innovation.

Representative Tom Mehaffie
106th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

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