UT Galveston's Medical Branch Not Only Working on CoronaVirus Vaccine, They Think They Might Be Close to a Treatment

“We're not surprised by cases like this. We anticipated cases like this arising,” says Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. 

AUSTIN, Texas (Texas Insider Report) — “We've done a lot of work on two other CoronaViruses that've been epidemic in the near past. SARS, virus which was an outbreak in 2003, and MERS —the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Virus — which is another coronavirus. So, we’ve been working for several years on a vaccine,” said ​​​​​UT Medical Branch-Galveston's executive director, Dr. Jim Le Duc.

“We have the ability to safely work on the most dangerous pathogens,” Le Duc says. 

Yes, one of the best weapons on the fight against COVID-19 is right here in Texas — a high security biocontainment lab where some of the best minds in medicine are looking for answers.

They’re not only working on a vaccine for coronavirus, they think they might be close to a treatment.

Doctor Le Duc's office has a view of the Gulf of Mexico – but the building itself is so sturdy it withstood the fury of Hurricane Ike in 2008 as Galveston Island suffered major damage. Its a high security facility, so locked down that very few images from inside are ever let out.

It’s a nondescript building on the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. But inside the biocontainment lab, Galveston National Laboratory (GNL) has some of the scientists leading the offensive against COVID-19.

Numerous “No photography” signs hang throughout the halls.

Le Duc has led the GNL since 2006. Before that served at the Centers for Disease Control where he was the influenza coordinator and the director of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases. “This is the most significant outbreak I have ever worked on,” he says.

“We’re looking at a number of different drugs that are licensed, and those that are in the pipeline for licensure as research projects — just to see if they react with this virus if they can somehow be used to control the virus and there are some very promising candidates,” he said.

Soon, an antiviral drug could be available. It could ease symptoms like pneumonia.

It’s an opinion state leaders take very seriously.

“We are not surprised by cases like this. We anticipated cases like this arising,” Gov. Greg Abbott told reporters last Thursday, as cases in the Houston area were reported.

“We continue to collaborate with local and federal partners to remain prepared to respond to any future cases of COVID-19,” Abbott said.

While scientists are racing to find answers, Dr. Le Duc says people have hard decisions to make about events like Spring Break and SXSW, because social isolation works.

“It’s almost certain that we’re going to have cases here, and we’re going to have some deaths.”

For now, hand washing, and social isolation are the best weapons we have against the virus.

“We don’t have a drug or anything, we’re just trying the social distance, keep people away so that people who are infected aren’t exposed to people that are susceptible,” said Le Duc.