ASPEN, Colo. (KDVR) — Dr. Mari Mitrani is the chief science officer of Organicell Regenerative Medicine Inc, with locations in Miami, and a second location is being built in Aspen.
Since April, the company has been working on developing ways to regenerate the lung using the experimental drug Zofin for COVID-19 patients.
Organicell has been focused on lung regeneration long before the pandemic but shifted its efforts to helping COVID-19 patients in the spring.
“As soon as COVID hit and there was a problem with the lungs, we pivoted all of our efforts,” said Mitrani. “We are trying to retrain the immune system to not to be so aggressive. That’s what we have been doing since April when we got approval.”
While doctors have linked certain genes to more severe COVID-19 outcomes, there’s still no clear connection as to why come people suffer longer. Even professional athletes have become COVID-19 “long-haulers.”
It is clear however, that our own immune system is what causes ongoing issues, kicked into overdrive, unable to slow its response.
“If you’re under attack and you deploy your soldiers, those soldiers are doing an overload of work,” explains Mitrani. “It is not the virus that’s producing that; it’s our soldiers who are producing that excessive water (in our lungs) trying to drown the virus.”
Zofin has been used in more than a dozen patients so far, including several COVID-19 long haulers, with authorization from the FDA. The drug is administered through an IV in three doses. The drug helps with inflammation and send a signal to the immune system to be less aggressive.
“What we have been doing is under FDA approval and we are gathering more information every day,” Mitrani tells FOX31. “We are following all of the trials that the FDA has asked for every company to follow.”
Bob Skelly, a trial participant from Pittsburgh, tested positive for COVID-19 in early June. After several weeks, Skelly still suffered from chest pains and shortness of breath. When offered the opportunity to participate in the Zofin trials, he couldn’t have been more eager.
“That feeling, day after day was really taking its toll,” said Skelly. “As soon as it was presented to me, I said, “Let’s do it. I am done with this; I’ll do whatever it takes.’”
After receiving all the doses, Skelly said he saw results overnight.
“My symptoms started to go away the very next day,” said Skelly. “It was immediate, the chest pain went away and within a week I was back to normal again.”
While it will be several months until Organicell finishes all of the necessary trials to make the treatments widely available, Mitrani tells FOX31 this is the next vital step to helping patients in the pandemic. The vaccine is clearly critical, but there are thousands of COVID-19 long haulers that will still need medical attention, even after the vaccines are distributed.
The World Health Organization refers to treating COVID19 long-haulers as “the new health crisis.”
“Don’t give up. Science will show up,” Mitrani reassures. “We are here and working even though you don’t see us. We are working hard to provide hope.”