Clarkson University Alumna Dr. Amy Jenkins (’02) is working on an antibody therapeutic that acts as a “temporary vaccine” to prevent infection in individuals exposed to COVID-19. The innovative therapy would essentially create an immunity that lasts for several months, making it a great tool for frontline responders during the pandemic.
Jenkins leads the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Pandemic Prevention Platform, which is in charge of rapid response to infectious diseases. She joined DARPA in June 2019 where she focuses on the development of platforms for combatting infectious disease threats as well as novel manufacturing methods to enable rapid response.
“The Pandemic Prevention Platform is a way for us to very quickly deploy medical countermeasures to those who may be deployed around the world into places that have diseases we don’t encounter every day,” says Jenkins. “Where there may be these types of outbreaks, we want to develop these platforms so that that we can protect the people who we’re putting in harm’s way.”
Unlike vaccines, which require your body to recognize and combat pathogens to eradicate the viruses or bacteria and can often create immunity for the rest of your life, the antibody therapy bypasses the need for an immune response that can take several weeks to occur and, likely, several inoculations. Instead, it offers immediate protection within hours after it’s injected.
“It’s only going to last for maximally a couple of months, but it’s that immediate – what we call a firebreak,” says Jenkins. “If you have a frontline healthcare worker and they know they’re going to be treating coronavirus patients all summer, you could give this to them in June and they would be covered for June, July, August.”
The antibody therapeutic is still in production, but Jenkins hopes to have it ready within a few months.
Jenkins earned her Bachelor’s of Science in chemistry and biomolecular science from Clarkson University and her Doctor of Philosophy in chemistry and chemical biology from Cornell. She served as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and previously worked as a senior scientist at Gryphon Technologies where she contributed to the development of programs that targeted infectious disease threats within DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office.