EDINBURG, Texas – Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health Institute for Research and Development unveiled a new mobile unit on Thursday that will help in the fight against COVID-19. 

In collaboration with Matrix Medical Network, the trailer will be used for COVID-19 patients participating in the latest National Institutes of Health clinical study.

Dr. Sohail Rao, president and CEO of DHR Health Institute for Research and Development and executive vice president for DHR Health System, explained that despite being a year into the pandemic, there are still so many unknowns about the disease, including the best therapeutics.

“Now that we know that we do not have a recognized and approved treatment from the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] of COVID-19, what we are trying to do is work with NIH and with other agencies and commercial partners to bring to our community the most innovative treatment that could prevent the people from progressing from mild to moderate to severe disease,” said Rao.

In contrast to their convalescent plasma research, the new study – ACTIV-2 – focuses on patients no more than 10 days into their positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The aim is to prevent the virus’s progression and avoid hospitalizations and severe symptoms. Four therapies have been approved for the clinical trials, two of which incorporate monoclonal antibodies – synthetic antibodies engineered to block the virus from binding onto healthy cells. If successful, a pill taken at the first signs of COVID-19 could drastically decrease a patient’s chance of developing a severe case of the disease or experiencing long-term, chronic complications.

“Our goal is to keep people healthy, to keep people out of the hospital and to try to prevent them from actually getting severe COVID-19,” said Rao.

Individuals who fit the parameters of the study are highly encouraged to participate. Rao cites that less than one percent of Hispanics take part in clinical research, but the data obtained could be vital for treatment. DHR will even provide transportation to and from appointments for those who need it. As more people partake in the study, Rao says he foresees the “research on wheels” going to Brownsville and even beyond Hidalgo, Cameron, Starr and Willacy counties.

“We are doing everything possible to make it easy for you and your family members and our patients to get involved and benefit from the research that we will be doing for the future of this virus,” said Rao.

Dr. Marissa Gomez-Martinez, a family practitioner at DHR Health, says that for a high-risk community like the Rio Grande Valley, the mobile unit could mean the difference between life and death for many.

“Our community has double the rate of mortality than the nation because of the co-morbidities here,” said Gomez-Martinez.

“So, having this trailer here, it is just such an amazing opportunity for our community, for you, for your families, your loved ones, to hopefully prevent that serious disease and hopefully get our community back to normalcy.”

While the mobile unit inspires hope for the future, DHR Health System CEO Dr. Manish Singh, reminded people about the current state of affairs. With no approved treatments for COVID-19 and over a dozen variants sprouting up across the country, he cautioned people to remain vigilant about the virus.

“This disease is not over yet,” said Sing. “People are getting vaccinated, but we still have to maintain all the precautions which we have been doing for the past year. Until there is (sic) zero patients in the hospital, this disease is real. So, as a physician – from us to the community – please be very careful. It is not over yet.”

Edinburg City Manager Ron Garza and Councilmember Juan “Johnny” Garcia thanked DHR and all who worked to obtain the mobile unit for the community. They say more collective efforts like this will be needed to turn things around.

“It’s not only a good day here in Edinburg, but a good day for this region,” said Garcia. “… This pandemic is nowhere [near] over, but working together in unity we will overcome this disease.”

For more information, visit the DHR Health Institute for Research and Development website.

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