Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of Feinstein, said...

Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of Feinstein, said clinical trials are key while vaccines for the coronavirus are being developed. Credit: Gary Wayne Gilbert

The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the research arm of Northwell Health, said Friday it has started enrolling hospitalized patients in COVID-19 clinical trials.

The research group said it was enrolling patients who were in severe and critical condition and under care at a Northwell hospital.

The trials are being launched in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies Gilead Sciences of Foster City, California, and Tarrytown, New York-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Executives at Northwell and Regeneron said at a news conference Friday that it was unclear how long the trials would run, or if any drug could be rolled out widely to COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of Feinstein, said clinical trials are key while vaccines are being developed. He said work is being done around the globe to develop a vaccine, but that's "one and a half years away, and we don't know if it works."

"The fact that a vaccine is being worked on already is unprecedented in science," he said. "It took 50 years to discover a polio vaccine. The scientific community already knows the sequence of this virus and are working on vaccines, and this is very positive."

Both pharmaceutical companies are seeking trial enrollees nationwide. Regeneron and Gilead also have started enrolling patients hospitalized at Mount Sinai Health System facilities. Mount Sinai operates hospitals in the metropolitan area, including Oceanside-based Mount Sinai South Nassau.

Mount Sinai South Nassau has one patient on a Gilead trial, with more pending, said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, chair of the department of medicine and the chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau.

The Regeneron trial specifically targets a human antibody called sarilumab, which triggers the activity that leads to some patients suffering from severe pneumonia.

Gilead is running two trials that study the safety and efficacy of remdesivir, an investigational antiviral drug, to reduce the intensity and duration of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.         

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