Companies test antibody drugs to prevent COVID-19

The coronovirus vaccine is still closed for months, with companies rushing to test what might be the next best thing: drugs that deliver antibodies to quickly fight the virus, train the immune system to make them without.

Antibodies are proteins that the body makes when an infection occurs; They attach to a virus and help eliminate it. Vaccines work by tricking the body and thinking it is an infection so it makes antibodies and remembers how to do it if the actual infection progresses.

But it may take one or two months after vaccination or infection to manufacture the most effective antibodies. Shortcut to experimental medicine that processes by giving focused versions of specific people that work best against coronovirus in lab and animal tests.

“A vaccine takes time to work, to force the development of antibodies. But when you give an antibody, you get immediate protection, ”University of North Carolina virologist Dr. Myron Cohen said. “If we can produce them in large concentrations, in large vats in an antibody factory … we can bypass the immune system.”

These drugs are believed to last a month or more and can give quick, temporary immunity to people at high risk of infection, such as a health worker and housewife of someone with COVID-19. If they proved effective and if a vaccine did not materialize or preserve as expected, the drugs could eventually be considered for widespread use, perhaps for teachers or other groups.

Youtube video thumbnail

They are also being tested as a treatment to help the immune system and prevent severe symptoms or death.

Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Marshall Lyon said that to target people treating such a disease, the hope is that we are in the first week of their illness and we can treat them with antibodies and prevent them from getting sick. At Emory University in Atlanta.

Cohen said that having such a device “would be a very important thing in our fight against COVID.”

The vaccine is seen as the key to controlling the virus, which has been confirmed to have infected more than 20 million people worldwide and killed more than 3038,000 people. Many companies are rushing to develop vaccines, but the results of the large final tests needed to evaluate them are months away.

American Drugs and Drug Administration official Drs. Janet Woodcock said antibody drugs are “very promising” and may, on the contrary, be available “very soon”, leading government efforts to accelerate COVID-19 treatments. Key studies are underway and some answers should fall quickly.

A company, Eli Lilly, has already started manufacturing its own antibody drug, betting that the study is now underway will produce positive results.

Lily’s Chief Scientific Officer, Drs. “Our goal is to get something done as soon as possible and drop hundreds of thousands of doses,” said Daniel Skowronski.

Another company that developed an antibody drug cocktail against Ebola – Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. – is now conducting a test for coronovirus.

“Success with the Ebola program gives us some confidence that we could potentially do it again,” said Christons Kiratos, a Regeron microbiologist who helped lead that work.

Regeneron’s drug uses two antibodies so that if the virus develops to evade action by one, the drug will work.

Lily is testing two different, single-antibody drugs – one with Canadian company AbCellera and the other with a Chinese company, Junshi Biosciences. In July, Junshi said that no safety concerns arose among the 40 healthy people who tried it and that larger studies were underway.

Others acting on antibody drugs include Amgen and Adaptive Biotechnology. Singapore biotech company Tychan Pte Ltd is also testing an antibody drug and has similar products in development for zika virus and yellow fever.

“I’m cautiously optimistic” about drugs, the country’s top infectious disease specialist, Drs. Anthony Fauci said. “I have experience that we had with Ebola,” where the drugs have proven effective.

What could have gone wrong?

– Antibodies cannot reach all the places in the body where they are required to function, such as deep in the lungs. All antibody drugs are given through an IV and must make their way through the bloodstream wherever they are needed.

– The virus can be mutated to avoid antibodies – The reason Regeneron is testing a two-antibody combo that binds the virus in different locations to help prevent its escape.

Skowronski said Lily stuck with one antibody because the manufacturing capacity would essentially be cut in half to make two, and “you would have a lower dose available.” If a single antibody works, “we can treat twice as many people,” he said.

– Antibodies may not last long. If they fade within a month, it is still okay to treat because COVID-19 disease usually resolves in that time. But for prevention, it may not be practical to give infusions more than once a month or two.

Weir Biotechnology Inc., a San Francisco company, says it allowed antibodies to last longer to avoid the problem. GlaxoSmithKline has invested $ 250 million in Veer to test them.

Giving higher doses may also help. If half of the antibodies disappear after a month, “If you give twice as much, you’ll have two months of protection,” Lily’s Skowronski said.

– Big fear: Antibodies can do the opposite of hope and actually increase the ability of the virus to go into cells or stimulate the immune system which makes people sick. This is a theoretical concern that has not been seen in testing so far, but larger, definitive experiments are needed to prove safety.

“As best we can tell, antibodies are helpful,” Leon said.


Marilynn Marchione can be followed on Twitter: @MMarchioneAP


The Associated Press Department of Health and Sciences has support from the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.