COVID-19: How a Georgia Biotech Company is Fighting Back

photos: d. Paul graham

This Georgia State Senator beat coronavirus. Now, as doctors and scientists around the world are working to develop a vaccine, Dr. Lester Jackson is working for a cure at a local biotech company — and their solution may surprise you. 

The novel coronavirus penetrated the Georgia Capital in mid March beginning with Sen. Brandon Beach’s March 18 diagnosis, triggering a legislative session suspension. Dr. Lestor Jackson, fellow Senate Finance Committee member to Beach, tested positive soon after, along with other Georgia state legislators.

“My symptoms were milder, but I had been aware of coronavirus in my colleagues,” said Jackson. “A lot of combating this is dedication and early recognition, then treatment.”

State senator since 2008 and former House of Representatives member for ten years prior, Jackson is a licensed dentist, having received the 2001 Distinguished Service Award from the National Dentist Association and serves as a Fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Dental Society.

Confronted by COVID-19, Jackson consulted with colleagues in the medical field. “A friend of mine, who is with Morehouse School of Medicine, taught me to go back and do what your grandmother used to do.”

The tried-and-true remedies reminiscent of maternal bedside care and childhood sick days — hot liquids, vitamin-C rich fruits, castor and cod liver oils, and plenty of sleep — proved true once again. After a humbling battle with the virus, the senator recovered to begin his ironically modern and innovative work on a new anti-viral weapon.

Bio Extraction Services LLC, a biotech company formed in late March, has reaped positive testing results from mice treated with their anti-viral formula meant to be infused into chewing gum, which would ideally be available to the public to prevent the spread and infection of COVID-19. Jackson is part of a team of researchers developing this anti-viral technology and brings his own chewing gum development strategies from his public health initiative to facilitate access to oral hygiene for those who have limited access to regular brushing and running water. Just as many companies have repurposed their technologies and reallocated materials and funding during the pandemic, so has the Bio Extraction Services team.

“This is an over 100-year-old natural malarial treatment from which the current drug is derived,” said CEO Preston Haliburton. “Our innovation in extraction, absorption and delivery system will hopefully benefit the public, not just during these trying times but for years to come.”

The anti-viral component is comprised of carbon, a neutralizer, and quinine, which is a compound found in cinchona tree bark that is an herbal virus remedy and the natural form of the synthetic malaria drug derivative.

“Initial research says it’s working and we’re exactly where we are,” said Jackson. “I think this will be a benefit not only for people in the United States but around the world.”

Haliburton’s team believes in the integrity of their product and is working tirelessly to bring new technology to pharmacy shelves. In the mean time, permission for human testing is still pending to gain government safety approval. Without an effective vaccine, the novel coronavirus is still spreading rapidly. Something as normal and accessible as chewing gum may be a worthy obstacle to the spread of the virus as well as a long term deterrent in the case of a second wave event.