Christos Kyratsous (via LinkedIn)

He built a MERS treat­ment in 6 months and then the best Ebo­la drug. Now Chris­tos Kyrat­sous turns his sights on Covid-19

TAR­RY­TOWN, NY — In 2015, as the Ebo­la epi­dem­ic raged through swaths of West Africa, Kris­ten Pas­cal’s room­mates sat her down on their couch and staged an in­ter­ven­tion.

“Are you sure this is what you want to be do­ing with your life?” she re­calls them ask­ing her.

Spe­cial re­port

Pas­cal, a re­search as­so­ciate for Re­gen­eron, had been com­ing home at 2 am and leav­ing at 6 am. At one point, she didn’t see her room­mate for a week. For months, that was life in Chris­tos Kyrat­sous’ lab as the pair led a com­pa­ny-wide race to de­vel­op the first drug that could ef­fec­tive­ly treat Ebo­la be­fore the out­break end­ed. For Pas­cal, that was worth it.

“I’m ok, I don’t have Ebo­la,” Pas­cal told them. “I see that death toll ris­ing and I can’t not do some­thing about it.”

Last Au­gust, Re­gen­eron learned they had suc­ceed­ed: In a large tri­al across West Africa, their drug, REGN-EB3, was vast­ly more ef­fec­tive than the stan­dard treat­ments. It was sur­prise news for the com­pa­ny, com­ing just 10 months in­to a tri­al they thought would take sev­er­al years and a ma­jor vic­to­ry in the glob­al fight against a dead­ly virus that killed over 2,000 in 2019 and can car­ry a mor­tal­i­ty rate of up to 90%.

For Kyrat­sous and Pas­cal, though, it brought on­ly fleet­ing re­prieve. Just four months af­ter the NIH in­formed them REGN-EB3 worked, Kyrat­sous was back in his of­fice read­ing the New York Times for up­dates on a new out­break on an­oth­er con­ti­nent, and won­der­ing along­side Pas­cal and se­nior man­age­ment whether it was time to pull the trig­ger again.

In late Jan­u­ary, as the death toll swelled and the first con­firmed cas­es out­side Chi­na broke dou­ble dig­its, they made a de­ci­sion. Soon they were back on the phone with the mul­ti­ple gov­ern­ment agen­cies and their coro­n­avirus part­ners at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land’s Lev­el 3 bio lab. The ques­tion was sim­ple: Can Kyrat­sous and his team use a process honed over two pre­vi­ous out­breaks, and cre­ate a treat­ment be­fore the newest epi­dem­ic ends? Or worse, if, as world health ex­perts fear, it doesn’t van­ish but be­comes a re­cur­rent virus like the flu?

“Chris­tos likes things im­me­di­ate­ly,” Matt Frie­man, Re­gen­eron’s coro­n­avirus col­lab­o­ra­tor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, told End­points. “That’s what makes us good col­lab­o­ra­tors: We push each oth­er to de­vel­op things faster and faster.”

Kris­ten Pas­cal (Re­gen­eron)

Click on the im­age to see the full-sized ver­sion

The first time Re­gen­eron tried to re­spond to a glob­al out­break, it was some­thing of a sys­tems test, Kyrat­sous ex­plains from his of­fice at Re­gen­eron’s Tar­ry­town head­quar­ters. Kyrat­sous, new­ly pro­mot­ed, has crammed it with pho­tos of his fam­i­ly, sketch­es of vi­ral vec­tors and a shark he drew for his 3-year-old son. He speaks rapid­ly – an idio­syn­crasy his press per­son says has on­ly been ag­gra­vat­ed this af­ter­noon by the con­tents of his “Re­gen­eron In­fec­tious Dis­eases”-mint­ed espres­so glass – and he ges­tic­u­lates with sim­i­lar flu­id­i­ty, tum­bling through an­ti­bod­ies, MERS, the nov­el coro­n­avirus, Ebo­la-in­fect­ed mon­keys.

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