President's visit proof Triangle is on the cutting edge of pandemic research

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ByEd Crump via WTVD logo
Friday, July 24, 2020
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The planned visit of President Trump to a Wake County biotech firm that's manufacturing doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine is a testament to the Research Triangle's expertise in the biotech industry.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The planned Monday visit of President Donald Trump to a Wake County biotech firm that's manufacturing doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine confirms what regional cheerleaders have been saying for years -- the Research Triangle is world-renowned.

In the 60 years since the Research Triangle Park (RTP) was created, it has more than fulfilled its founders' dreams. And in each of those years, it has spawned more and more high-tech and bio-tech companies and organizations not just inside the park but for many miles around it.

One of those companies is Path BioAnalytics (PBA) in Durham. The company helps pharmaceutical companies look at drugs they are developing in a unique way by growing tissue to use for testing.

The company will soon be testing two drugs to see if they might be effective in the fight against COVID-19.

The so-called 'synthetic anti-infectives' are from an Australian company called 'Recce Pharmaceuticals.' It hopes the drugs will stop secondary bacterial infections in COVID-19 patients which it says causes the most deaths in those patients and claim that unlike most antibiotics their anti-infectives are resistant to bacterial mutations.

"There's no sort of build-up or over response of the human body to the compounds. That's an incredibly good value," said John Mellnik the CEO of PBA.

He believes Recce chose to work with his company because of its cutting-edge use of human cells to quickly test drugs.

And 'quick' is key in the battle against the coronavirus.

"The data end up being more useful, we get the data faster, and they allow our partners to make more informed decisions about how their science has been going and how to prioritize their own work," Mellnik told ABC11.

Mellnik hopes his company will be able to have some results as early as September. He credits the Recce study and other opportunities for companies like his to the namesakes for the three corners of the Research Triangle - UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and NC State Universities.

"The biotech space here is really fueled by the cutting edge research that's happening at the local universities."

And Mellnik isn't shy about sharing the limelight with the hundreds of other companies spawned by RTP both inside the park and in cities and towns throughout the region.

He said he won't be surprised if one or many of them are directly involved in closing the lid on the pandemic noting, "We have a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and the coming months in terms of how we're able to impact the trajectory of this virus."