On Thursday, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced that it had commenced its first clinical trial of COVID-19 antibody cocktail treatments in the United States. If successful, the company hopes to make the treatment, officially known as REGN-COV2, available for COVID-19 patients by fall.
In a press release, Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. George Yancopoulos wrote, “We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection, and also to preempt viral ‘escape,’ a critical precaution in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.
“Ultimately, the world needs multiple solutions, and the innovative biopharma industry is collectively working hard to help as many people as possible with a variety of complementary approaches.”
The clinical trials, which started Wednesday, will be conducted on four different study groups. Patients who are sick and hospitalized with COVID-19, those who are sick but not hospitalized, individuals who are high at risk to contract the disease but haven’t yet been infected and people who have come in contact with someone who has been tested COVID-19 positive.
“REGN-COV2 could have a major impact on public health by slowing spread of the virus and providing a needed treatment for those already sick – and could be available much sooner than a vaccine,” said Yancopoulos.
“The antibody cocktail approach may also have long-term utility for elderly and immuno-compromised patients, who often do not respond well to vaccines.”
Antibodies are produced against viruses and bacteria when the body responds to infection. The antibodies defend a cell from infectious bacteria by neutralizing any effect it has biologically and can persist in an individual’s system for years and sometimes, decades. The antibodies can either be natural or artificial (e.g. vaccinations). To form an antibody cocktail, scientists at Regeneron have examined thousands of antibodies to pick out two which they hope will be most effective in treating COVID-19.
Eli Lilly and Co., Regeneron’s competitor, also started its clinical trials on June 1 for an antibody treatment which they have announced may be available by early September.
However, Regeneron told CNBC on Thursday that its own treatment using a cocktail of two antibodies can prevent the virus from mutating, potentially offering a better solution.
In response to Regeneron’s announcement, the Trump administration’s former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, expressed concern over potential supply shortages of the treatment and called for government support in the manufacturing process.
“These antibody programs are on pace to potentially have a product for the Fall for emergency use,” he tweeted on Thursday.
“The challenge will be supply. The manufacturers will have limited doses unless the feds can help crash manufacturing capacity. This is where the government can play an important role.”
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