Michael Levine’s new cause: Combating COVID with riboflavin, UV light

By Mike Sunnucks | Rose Law Group Reporter

Michael Levine has spent years renovating and rehabilitating old buildings in downtown Phoenix’s Warehouse District.

Preserving those buildings — some of which date back to World War I and World War II — has been a calling to Levine.

Now, Levine has a new quest in a new arena — combatting the coronavirus.

Levine has been doing research and looking into the potential use of riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and ultraviolet (UV) light to combat COVID-19.

The concept is that the Vitamin B2 coupled with UV light can potentially dismantle COVID pathogens in blood and plasma.

Levine said the treatment should be part of the arsenal to combat the virus.

“There needs to be other avenues to combat these things,” Levine said of COVID treatments other than vaccines.

The Arizona-based entrepreneur has created his own computer models and technical analysis to help study and promote the concept.

Levine said he has a U.S. patent pending related to UV light and riboflavin treatments and his focus is on finding partners to bring the idea to fruition.

The idea of using UV light and Vitamin B2 to combat viruses — including COVID — has been explored before and during the current pandemic.

It has been used to curtail malaria in blood supplies in Africa — including a research effort in Ghana.

A 2020 study Colorado State University looked at using riboflavin and UV light as related to COVID and blood transfusions.

The study exposed plasma and blood to a riboflavin and UV light treatment and showed reduced “a huge amount of the virus”, according to a research summary by Dr. Izabela Ragan with Colorado State’s Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Levine points out that Japanese researchers also explored the use of riboflavin and UV light in 2002 after a SARS outbreak.

The challenge for Levine and medical researchers working with him is they need clinical trials and additional partners to move the idea forward.

Sabine Zacate, Ph.D., is virologist and is working with Levine’s effort as a consultant.

She sees potential promise in the riboflavin and UV light treatments to inactivate COVID in the bloodstream.

The treatment would also not require refrigeration like the COVID vaccines. That could translate into distribution advantages in developing and rural areas, Zacate said.

“I think it is a great concept. We’ve been trying to find somebody who can push this forward,” Zacate said.

Zacate said the challenge is getting a clinical study to show the treatment’s effectiveness.

Both Levine and Zacate said the current state of medical research in the U.S. and worldwide puts a premium on vaccines and often dismisses other potential treatments for COVID.

“You earn a lot more money if you sell vaccines,” Zacate said.

Levine said he started researching COVID in January 2020 after early reports of the virus from China.

“It was terrifying and in the U.S. no one was paying attention to it,” said Levine of the early days of the global pandemic.

Levine, who does not have a medical background, said he started looking at the structure of viruses and potential treatments.

He focused on riboflavin and UV treatments as a way to combat COVID after seeing research in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“The science is solid,” Levine said.

That prompted him to do some of his own technical research on the benefits and to start reaching out to public health agencies, medical researchers and universities about collaboration and potential clinical trials.

“I’m doing it Don Quixote style,” said Levine of his outreach which has included trying to make inroads with Native American tribes and public health agencies and researchers in other countries.

He said he’s not interested in making money off the treatment — a contrast to the profits reaped by U.S. COVID vaccine makers.

“I’m looking at it as freeware — grassroots,” Levine said of his hopes of sharing the treatment. “It’s the complete opposite of pharmaceuticals.”

“It’s the complete opposite of pharmaceuticals,” said Levine, who has rehabilitated and preserved a number of Warehouse District properties.

Levine said other countries still tend to look to the U.S. to take the lead with medical research — including COVID.

But Levine said he has to overcome a research arena and medical establishment skeptical of naturopathic treatments and centered on vaccines, financial bottom lines and profits.

He said new COVID variants and how well vaccines work on them could help propel the UV/B2 and other treatments.

But he worries the situation centers too much around profits margins.

The Vitamin B2-UV light combination would not necessarily offer the same profit margins as vaccines. That is resulting in less institutional interest in such treatments — frustration for Levine and others looking at non-vaccine treatments for COVID.

“What is medicine,” Levine asked. “You are supposed to be saving lives.”

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