British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has commenced late-stage trials for its COVID-19 antibody drug. In an Oct. 9 statement, the company said that two tests for the AZD7442 long-acting antibody drug, involving 6,000 adult participants worldwide, will look at the medication’s ability to prevent COVID-19 symptoms. A subsequent trial to observe AZD7442’s use as a COVID-19 treatment, involving 4,000 volunteers, is also being planned.
The two initial trials for the antibody-drug will assess its ability to prevent infections for as much as a year in some patients. The trials will also explore the drug’s use as a preemptive treatment for patients exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Long-acting antibodies such as the ones used in AstraZeneca’s drug mimic the ones found in the human body; these have the potential to halt the effects of COVID-19 in infected patients. AZD7442 could also be used to complement a vaccine against the coronavirus, especially those who may not jive well with vaccines.
AZD7442 is a combination of two long-acting antibodies derived from patients who recovered from COVID-19. Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee discovered the antibodies and licensed these to AstraZeneca in June. The drugmaker then optimized the antibodies by extending their half-life to provide up to a year of protection against the coronavirus. In addition, AstraZeneca reduced the antibodies’ Fc receptor binding to lower the risk of antibody-dependent enhancement of disease – a phenomenon in which virus-specific antibodies exacerbate infection instead of inhibiting it.
U.S. committed to procuring AstraZeneca’s antibody treatments
AstraZeneca received financial support of about $486 million from the U.S. government to aid its antibody-drug development; in turn, the company will produce an initial 100,000 doses of AZD7742 by the end of 2020. A separate agreement permitted the federal government to acquire up to one million doses in 2021.
The $486 million agreement follows an earlier $25 million deal between the company, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Part of this initial deal included discovering and evaluating long-acting antibodies for addressing COVID-19 and the accompanying phase one trial that started in August.
Examination of antibodies as treatments for COVID-19 stemmed from earlier convalescent plasma treatments – which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for emergency use in August. Convalescent plasma from people who survived COVID-19 contained antibodies that help fend off the pathogen. An antibody cocktail was among the treatments given to President Donald Trump at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when he was transferred there in early October after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Other drugmakers looking at antibodies to fight COVID-19
Other companies have also explored the use of antibodies to address COVID-19.
American pharmaceutical firms Eli Lilly & Co. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. asked the FDA for emergency-authorizations for their antibody treatments but have not received any response.
Preliminary data from Eli Lilly showed “a reduced rate of hospitalization” for COVID-19 patients who received its LY-CoV555 antibody treatment. Meanwhile, Trump cited Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody treatment as instrumental to his recovery from COVID-19.
GlaxoSmithKline and its partner Vir Biotechnology also commenced advanced tests on their VIR731 antibody treatment, an Oct. 6 announcement said.
AstraZeneca’s trials with AZD7442 appear to make up for its setbacks with its coronavirus vaccine. The firm suspended its trials months ago after two vaccine trial participants suffered from spinal inflammation. Just recently, The Epoch Times reported that a third participant in AstraZeneca’s trials in Brazil got sick and died.
Data collated by Johns Hopkins University indicates that the U.S. has a total of almost 8.5 million COVID-19 cases, with 223,987 deaths and 3.3 million recoveries.
Read more about long-acting antibodies and other potential COVID-19 treatments at Pandemic.news.
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