Coronavirus Advisory: Groundbreaking research & the fight against COVID-19

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Our Lady of the Lake, once seen as Baton Rouge’s community hospital, has grown in recent years to become a nationally recognized academic medical center with robust research and graduate medical education programs.

This skilled team of researchers and scientists has most recently put their expertise to use in the fight against COVID-19, including participating in three groundbreaking research projects to address this aid in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.

Unknown to most, Our Lady of the Lake has been home to groundbreaking Sepsis research being conducted over the last six years that, once finalized, will reshape the way this life-threatening condition is diagnosed.

Through serendipity, Hollis “Bud” O’Neal, MD, Our Lady of the Lake’s medical director of research and an LSU Health Science Center – Baton Rouge pulmonary and critical care physician met the founders of a CytoVale, a healthcare startup based in California’s silicon valley, because of an interaction on an airplane.

Cytovale developed a “Rapid Sepsis Diagnostic System” that reduces Sepsis diagnosis time from three days to 10-15 minutes.

In April it was announced the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would provide funding for Dr. O’Neal to conduct a pilot study using Cytovale’s system for patients with potential respiratory infections, including those with SARS-CoV-2, responsible for COVID-19.

“Sepsis is a potentially deadly outcome of COVID-19. The goal of this study is to determine if we can diagnose sepsis quickly and accurately in potential COVID-19 patients and appropriately triage them with the Cytovale technology,” said Dr. O’Neal. “We are looking for any advantage over COVID-19 as Louisiana has emerged as a hotspot. We are optimistic that this new system could be a part of the way critically ill patients are evaluated in the short and long term.”

Another research project underway at Our Lady of the Lake is looking into the benefits of Remdesivir. The drug has been in the news recently following promising results from an early clinical trial announced by Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Last week, Our Lady of the Lake was admitted into the remdesivir expanded access program and clinicians are already using the medication to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection.

“Early results indicate remdesivir is a promising treatment to increase the speed of recovery in hospitalized patients,” Dr. O’Neal said. “The drug works by preventing the virus from replicating itself inside a patient’s body and shortening the length of illness.”

The Food and Drug Administration granted remdesivir an emergency use authorization last week and its creator, Gilead Sciences, will be working to increase supply of the drug to match growing demand.

Another expanded access program Our Lady of the Lake is participating in is led by the Mayo Clinic and aims to provide coordinated access to investigational convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or those at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.

“So far, we’ve been able to provide convalescent plasma to 12 patients,” said Vince Cataldo, MD, a medical oncologist serving as the primary investigator on the research program.

There is currently no proven treatment for COVID-19; however, the program will explore whether or not convalescent plasma, which contains antibodies to the virus that leads to COVID-19, may provide passive immunity to certain patients with severe forms of the illness. The program also allows those who have recovered from COVID-19 a way to give back by donating their plasma.

“Collaborating with the Mayo Clinic on this convalescent plasma expanded access program will give patients who have recovered from COVID-19 an opportunity to give back to their community and potentially help those who will contract the disease in the future,” Dr. Cataldo said.

Our Lady of the Lake Blood Donor Center has begun collecting convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.

Researchers and physicians at Our Lady of the Lake are committed to making Baton Rouge a destination center for medical research and using their work to revolutionize care for patients suffering from diseases such as COVID-19.  We can expect to see more clinical trials opening at Our Lady of the Lake in the next month, making new treatment options available to patients and helping the medical community find more treatment options for this infection as well as many other conditions that impact the area’s patients.


“Cytovale receives additional BARDA funding to evaluate rapid sepsis diagnostic in persons under investigation (PUI) for Covid 19; pilot study for new technology launched in Louisiana, COVID-19 hotspot”

“Our Lady of the Lake to participate in Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program”