Louisville facility hopeful to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials

Louisville facility hopeful to participate in COVID-19 vaccine trials

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Those at one Louisville medical facility are hoping it will be chosen to help create a COVID-19 vaccine.

Mark Prussian, the CEO of Butchertown Clinical Trials, said the company has applied to be a part of four coronavirus vaccination trials, which he believes it has a good chance to be approved for.

"One of them is for first responders and that is going to be a government-funded study that could start as early as April or May of this year," Prussian said. "There are two other U.S. companies. One of whom is a huge household name that probably wont start until next year. Another one is a European company."

Prussian describes Butchertown Clinical Trials as a sister company to the Eye Care Institute, which he operates on Story Avenue. He said both companies have had success running over 100 clinical trials, which have resulting in 11 products being approved by the FDA, including seven different types of eye drops, an injection for glaucoma, a device for dry eye disease and several antibiotics.

Prussian said he estimates around 1-in-14 Louisvillians, in a seven county metro area, use the Institute for eye care already. He leveraged that scale to expand his business outside of eye care and created an adult medicine division.

"We have this huge database. So, we already know that they like participating with us in eye care trials," he said. "So, adding a family practice doctor and internal medicine doctor was a natural fit to extend and make people healthier."

Prussian said the Eye Care Institute has been conducting clinic trials for 20 years, and Butchertown Clinical Trials, which includes the adult medicine division, has now been in operation for around a year.

"The timing just turned out to be really well for us," Prussian said. "We really hope we get to help create a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine."

Prussian said current vaccines being tested would not involve injecting a live vaccine into trial participants.

"All of the vaccines that are being tested would not inject the live virus into you, rather they would edit your messenger RNA, or mRNA, which you may remember from high school biology or not," he said. "Basically, it's making sure your cells are healthy and can repel the coronavirus, COVID-19."

Prussian said there has been some confusion on social media about what the business is doing. He wanted to clarify that it is not testing for or treating the virus.

“Butchertown Clinical Trials is not offering testing for COVID-19. We’re not treating COVID-19. We’re not a hospital,” he said. “We do have the capacity, through all of our resources, to offer clinical trials when scientists from pharmaceutical companies are ready to test them for approval in the United States through the FDA.”

Butchertown Clinical Trials is currently awaiting for its application to be approved. So, advertisements on Facebook are garnering a list of people interested in participating in the trial, if the FDA approves it.

"We are currently recruiting names in the event that we get a study," Prussian said.

He said he feels his company will be a competitive applicant for trials because not many others of a similar size and capability exist in the region.

Prussian adds that universities and academic institutions often perform trials, but smaller facilities have their advantages too.

"While they're really wonderful, a lot of times they can't be quick enough or nimble enough to respond as quickly as we need something like a COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine trial," he said, referring to universities. "So, smaller, private centers, like ours, who can read the contract, and understand the study protocol within 24 to 48 hours have a lot of advantage."

If approved, trials would include weekly follow up appointments, where blood would be drawn at the Eye Care Institute - Butchertown Clinical Trials facility.

Prussian said most studies would monitor participants' health for six to twelve weeks. Pharmaceutical companies would then submit that data to the FDA to seek approval of the vaccine.

Those interested in participating can learn more at https://butchertownclinicaltrials.com/.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.