INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company has been hitting the road to conduct clinical trials of treatments for COVID-19 patients, especially those at nursing homes.
And the effort is paying off. Lilly scientists are identifying, developing and testing antibodies as potential treatments for the virus.
Clinical trials typically take place in hospitals, universities, doctors' offices and community clinics. But Lilly needed to study elderly nursing home patients, and long-term care facilities aren’t traditional locations for clinical trials.
Nursing home residents have been an especially vulnerable population since the pandemic began, with more than 40% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. among patients at long-term care facilities.
Lilly took its clinical trials to the nursing homes by converting RVs into mobile research units.
“It truly was one of those light-bulb moments for the team, and we immediately went to work to transform the idea into a reality,” said Janelle Sabo, PharmD, Lilly clinical development leader for the COVID-19 antibody portfolio as well as Lilly clinical innovation, systems and supplies.
Lilly customized trailer trucks to follow the RVs with supplies needed for on-location clinical research.
“We’re working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable individuals,” said Dan Skovronsky, Lilly's senior vice president and chief science officer. "It’s not easy to conduct clinical trials in this setting, but we’re taking on the challenge in an effort to help those that need us most.”
The first-of-its-kind COVID-19 trial is being conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the COVID-19 Prevention Network, and several long-term care facility networks across the country.
The study will enroll residents and staff who live or work at facilities that have had recently diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and are now at a high risk of exposure.
“We wanted to make sure the patient experience was front and center,” Sabo said. “This is such a unique situation for so many patients, many of whom have been isolated from family and loved ones.”