'I Get to Help Others': Meet The First Patient in City of Hope's COVID Vaccine Trial

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

'I Get to Help Others': Meet The First Patient in City of Hope's COVID Vaccine Trial

Last month, Lupe Duarte read an announcement from her colleagues that City of Hope was recruiting for a COVID-19 vaccine trial. The mother of three, who also cares for her infirm parents, volunteered immediately.

This afternoon the 48-year old project manager became the first patient to get a dose of the vaccine developed by a team of researchers at City of Hope.

She's part of the biotech institution's phase 1 trial, which tests a drug's safety typically over one to two years. The process is likely to last just three months as regulators speed up approval to deal with the pandemic. The next stage, expected to span about eight months, would test on more volunteers and further assess safety and efficacy.


City of Hope is one of only a handful of Southern California organizations that are working on a vaccine. Their shot will require two doses and must be stored about 60 degrees below celsius, but the team is looking into whether it can be freeze dried and stored at room temperature.

"I think a lot of people still fear the clinical trial aspect," said Duarte, who is expecting a few check-in calls this weekend and plans to visit the clinic for regular blood samples. "There is no doubt in my mind that this is safe for me."

Duarte is no stranger to the trial process. She's worked in clinical research since 1996, beginning with prostate and lung cancer studies. Over this next year, as Duarte is monitored and observed for side effects to the vaccine, she'll experience clinical trials as a patient instead.

"If I'm healthy and I'm eligible and I get to participate, why shouldn't I?" she said. "I get to help others, like our cancer patients have done over the years."

She wants more people of color and Latinos, who have been especially hard hit in the pandemic, to participate in clinical trials.

Across the country, an estimated 237 biotech companies and research labs have joined the race to develop their own vaccinations as pharmaceutical giants prepare for the first wave of mass distributions. Just 38 of those, including the vaccine from City of Hope, have started clinical testing.

Very few companies will pull it off. Over 90% of clinical trials fail, said Esther Krofah, executive director of the Milken Institute's FasterCures. Her team has tracked vaccine makers since March, when just a couple dozen companies had entered phase 1 trials.

"We need to make sure we have incentives for second and third generation vaccines, to get as many of them over the finish line," she said. "The goal would be to have a handful or more that can meet the global demand."

Krofah said factors like temperature storage matter most when it comes time to distribute. But some vaccines in development do have a leg up, she said, including those requiring just a single dose.

"Those are very hopeful in that you might be able to scale without the burden of somebody coming back twice," she said.

Don J. Diamond, a City of Hope professor and vaccine researcher, said his team received the Federal Drug Association's go-ahead to start human trials for the vaccine a few weeks ago. Their vaccine utilizes a synthetic platform technology called an MVA to trigger the immune system by stimulating antibodies and T cells.

Duarte and her five siblings rotate as caretakers for their mother, who is bed-bound and immunocompromised. Her father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. The vaccination gives her some sense of relief that she won't put her parents at risk.

"Cancer doesn't stop," she said by Zoom, hours before she would drive from her home in Glendora to the clinic in Duarte. "We still have to continue taking care of our parents."

In 28 days, Duarte will be back for her second dose.

https://twitter.com/frosebillington
francesca@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Greater Good Health Raises $10 Million To Fix America’s Doctor Shortage

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

Greater Good Health Raises $10 Million To Fix America’s Doctor Shortage
Courtesy of Greater Good Health

The pandemic highlighted what’s been a growing trend for years: Medical students are prioritizing high-paying specialty fields over primary care, leading to a shortage of primary care doctors who take care of a patient’s day-to-day health concerns. These physicians are a cornerstone of preventative health care, which when addressed can lower health care costs for patients, insurers and the government. But there’s a massive shortage of doctors all over the country, and the pipeline for primary care physicians is even weaker.

One local startup is offering a possible answer to this supply squeeze: nurse practitioners.

On Wednesday, Manhattan Beach-based Greater Good Health unveiled a $10 million Series A funding round led by LRVHealth, which adds to the startup’s $3 million seed round last year. The company employs nurse practitioners and pairs them with doctor’s offices and medical clinics; this allows nurse practitioners to take on patients who would otherwise have to wait weeks, or even months, to see a doctor.

Read more Show less

Plus Capital Partner Amanda Groves on Celebrity Equity Investments

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
PLUS Capital​’s Amanda Groves.
Courtesy of Amanda Groves.

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.

As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.

Read more Show less

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

Rivian Stock Roller Coaster Continues as Amazon Van Delivery Faces Delays
Courtesy of Rivian.

Rivian’s stock lost 7% yesterday on the back of news that the company could face delays in fulfilling Amazon’s order for a fleet of electric delivery vans due to legal issues with a supplier. The electric vehicle maker is suing Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) over a pricing dispute related to the seats that the supplier promised, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read more Show less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending