U.S. Senate Candidate Rikin Mehta, of New Jersey, said this week in a press release that his company might hold the key to therapeutic treatment for COVID-19. Mehta is a partner and co-founder of Lactiga. Mehta, who is also a former US Food & Drug Administration employee under former President Barack Obama and his company has announced a research agreement with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“Lactiga is a biotherapeutics company that developed and patented a new biologic, LCTG-001, to prevent mucosal infections. LCTG-001 is for patients with Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases (PIDD) including Selective IgA Deficiency (SIgAD) and Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID),” the company claims on its website.
The company is seeking to advance its patented anti-infective biologic, LCTG-001. In a press release, Lactiga announced a collaboration agreement with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to advance preclinical research into LCTG-001 as a potential treatment for COVID-19 patients. The collaborative team, led by Dr. Rebecca Powell, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Infectious Diseases), secured an NIH R01 Emergency Award of $2 million dollars to expand this study.
Dr. Rikin “Rik” Mehta, Co-Founder and Partner stated, “We see promise in a novel therapeutic that may help COVID-positive patients reduce their hospital stay and slow the progression of the disease, especially in our elderly and vulnerable populations”.
With over 7.8 million cases and 210,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, a novel therapeutic that reduces COVID morbidity rates are critical, Mehta said.
“We are proud to partner with Mount Sinai, which has maintained a leading role in COVID-19 research and innovation. We believe this collaboration will help us deliver a novel intervention to counteract this devastating virus,” said Dr. Viraj Mane, Lactiga’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer.
To date, Lactiga claims preliminary in vitro studies demonstrate full neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 viral components, emphasizing the potential applicability of LCTG-001 to COVID-19 infections. Lactiga has engaged with Mehta’s former employer, the United States Food and Drug Administration through the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program to optimize its transition from research toward first-in-human clinical testing.
According to Crunchbase, Lactiga received $10,000 in pre-seed venture capital funding from York University’s “LaunchYU” early-state startup and accelerator funding arm.
Mehta is also running for U.S. Senate as a Republican against Democrat Senator Cory Booker. Currently, Mehta trails Booker by nearly 30 points in the latest election polls. Mehta has hit a rough patch in his campaign after receiving little to no funding from Republican donors in the state. Heading into the final stretch of the election, Mehta has just $61,000 in his campaign treasury, according to the Federal Election Commission’s most recent quarterly report.
Powell is a leading researcher of breast milk and has conducted studies that may prove breast milk could hold the key to creating a COVID-19 therapeutic. Powell’s studies suggest antibodies found in breast milk could neutralize the virus’s effects on the human body.
“The vast majority of moms have a strong antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in their milk…that could neutralize the virus,” she said during a recent roundtable on the subject.
Although the components of breast milk may hold clues to an eventual COVID-19 therapeutic, doctors and medical professionals say do not drink human breast milk as there is no scientific evidence that it can work alone as a therapeutic for COVID-19. Not only that, human breast milk can be harmful and dangerous to adults who consume it.
“There’s no proof that breast milk at all can cure COVID or give you antibodies,” Dr. Dyan Hes, a pediatrician with New York City’s Gramercy Pediatrics in a CBS News report on the subject earlier this year. “There’s no data that I know of that has been published yet about it.”
Since that time, some scientists and doctors have taken up the challenge of performing studies to see if the antibodies in mothers’ milk can indeed successfully attack the COVID-19 virus in the mucous membranes before they infect the body.