Lifesaving COVID medication to protect our most vulnerable

Tuesday 22 August 2023

The first Australian trial of a new COVID medication that is set to save the lives of vulnerable immuno-suppressed patients has been launched in Brisbane.

Supernova is a long-acting antibody combination designed to give instant protection to those with weakened immune systems – such as solid organ or blood cancer, transplant recipients and people who are immunosuppressed due to medications to treat autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.

Mater Research’s Respiratory, Infectious Disease and Thoracic Oncology Unit launched the trial and is appealing for immuno-suppressed patients across South East Queensland to participate.

Dr Paul Griffin, Mater Director of Infectious Diseases, said it was critical to protect those who are unable to be vaccinated for COVID or for whom vaccines do not provide a strong immune response.

“Vaccines have made an extraordinary difference to how we manage COVID and protect the majority of the population,” Dr Griffin said.

“Unfortunately, there is a subset of the population that simply can’t respond to vaccines due to inherent issues with their immune system, or because they’re on medicines that turn their immune systems down.

“It’s estimated that around half-a-million Australians, or two per cent of the population, are immuno-suppressed and exceptionally vulnerable to COVID as a result.

“No matter how many doses of the vaccine we give, these people remain at risk of severe COVID infection and, in some cases, mortality.”

Supernova is an advanced version of antibody products first developed during the peak of the pandemic that have since suffered reduced efficacy as the COVID virus evolves.

“This medication relies on an entirely new antibody and I’m hopeful it will provide a very significant improvement in the protection provided,” Dr Griffin said.

“It is given as an intra-muscular injection, just like a vaccine, and immediately provides protection similar to what most people have following a full vaccination course.

“This means that we can protect those who are the most vulnerable in our population, giving them the freedom the rest of us have enjoyed for some time now.

“Many are hopeful that it will give them the opportunity to re-enter society knowing that they’re no longer as vulnerable as they would have been without those antibodies – that’s why we’re excited to be trialling this updated antibody combination.”

Father-of-two Michael O’Neill, of Brisbane, was among the first patients to join the trial.

The 36-year-old was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth and was only a few weeks from death when he received a bilateral lung transplant eleven years ago.

Because of my transplant, I will have to take immuno-suppression medication for the rest of my life,” Mr O’Neill said.

“The pandemic was an uncertain time for my family, but I’ve never lived my life in a bubble. If this vaccine is successful, it will give my family and I greater peace of mind.”

Mr O’Neill urged other immuno-suppressed Queenslanders to consider taking part in the trial.

“For someone who has had chronic disease for their entire life, this is a very small commitment that may lead to better health outcomes for myself and, even better, the larger population,” he said.

“That would be a fantastic result after what we have experienced internationally in recent times.”

Supernova is expected to provide protection for at least six months and potentially even longer.
Participants must be 18+ to take part in the trial.

Please call 07 3163 1369 for more information.