As the world waits for the COVID-19 vaccine to arrive, the next major advance in the fight against the pandemic may come from biotech therapies widely used to fight cancer and other diseases-antibodies specifically designed to attack this new virus.
Leading scientists have approved the development of monoclonal antibodies against viruses. Anthony Fauci, a top US infectious disease expert, called them “almost certain bets” against COVID-19.
When the virus crosses the body’s initial defense capabilities, it will produce a more specific response, which triggers the production of cells against the invader. These include antibodies that recognize and lock the virus to prevent the spread of infection.
The monoclonal antibodies that grow in the barrel of the bioreactor are copies of these naturally occurring proteins.
Scientists are still studying the exact role of neutralizing antibodies in recovering from COVID-19, but drugmakers are confident that the right antibodies or their combination can change the course of this disease, which has claimed more than 675,000 people worldwide s life.
“Antibodies can block infectivity. That is a fact,” Regeneron Pharmaceuticals executive Christos Kyratsous told Reuters.
Scientists are still working out the exact role of neutralizing antibodies in recovery from COVID-19, but drugmakers are confident that the right antibodies or a combination can alter the course of the disease that has claimed more than 675,000 lives globally.
Regeneron is testing a two-antibody cocktail, which it believes limits the ability of the virus to escape better than one, with data on its efficacy expected by late summer or early fall. “Protection will wane over time. Dosing is something we don t know yet,” said Kyratsous.
Eli Lilly and Co, AstraZeneca, Amgen, and GlaxoSmithKline have obtained permission from the U.S. government to concentrate manufacturing resources for any of these drugs. Expand supply in a successful case.
Even with unusual cooperation between competitors, manufacturing these drugs is complicated and limited in production capacity. There is also controversy over whether a single antibody is sufficient to stop COVID-19.
AstraZeneca said it plans to start human trials of its dual antibody combination within a few weeks.
Eli Lilly began human testing of two candidate antibodies in separate trials in June, with the current focus on one drug therapy.
“If you need a higher dosage or more antibodies, fewer people can be treated,” Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Dan Skovronsky said.