PHOENIX — Bianca Garcia has spent most of her career trying to help those who need it most.
Garcia owns and operates Absolute Clinical Research, a lab dedicated to conducting trials and collect data that can help experts learn whether different agents could successfully fight disease. She spent years studying and working to develop treatment options for Alzheimer's disease.
In 2020, like most healthcare workers, she switched gears to focus on the pandemic.
Today, Garcia's lab is one of more than 100 across the nation selected to conduct a new clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Leaders behind "Operation Warp Speed," a national private-public partnership created by US officials to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, aimed at developing new treatments against COVID-19.
It's something she wishes she could have helped develop during the height of the pandemic.
"I really took this fight on as a personal fight," said Garcia. "I lost my father to COVID in September."
The ACTIV-2 clinical trial focuses on investigating potential treatments for early COVID-19 and narrowing down successful agents that can minimize the severity of symptoms and prevent hospitalization among patients by introducing them to monoclonal antibodies.
"We all develop antibodies naturally," said Garcia "Monoclonal antibodies just means that the antibodies were made in a lab and we are infusing them to help you make more antibodies and fight the disease.”
The agents being tested could be administered to patients in several ways: by injection, rapid infusion, or orally, in the form of a pill.
While millions of Americans are getting vaccinated, Garcia says treatment options could still have a major impact in the future of the fight against the virus
"There's still all these variants, there’s all these things happening that we need to learn more," she said. "We need to have options. We need to be able to treat and we need to stop losing our loved ones.”
However, Garcia's already facing hurdles in getting the study off the ground.
"Cases are going down and it is harder to get people in the studies," she said. "We are almost crying for help here. We want to make sure that we are completing these cohorts as fast as we can.”
The clinical trial is working to test the effectiveness of two agents -- one that could be administered as an infusion over 15 minutes or via injection, and another that could be taken by mouth.
"Each of the new agents is being evaluated in a phase-two study that will randomize 110 participants to receive the investigational agent and 110 to receive placebo. To qualify for ACTIV-2, participants must have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the outpatient setting within 10 days and started experiencing symptoms within eight days of enrolling," according to researchers behind the study,