Biotech firm Regeneron starts trials for coronavirus antibody treatment
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Biotech firm Regeneron starts trials for coronavirus antibody treatment

US company says ‘antibody cocktail’ being tested on humans has ability to both prevent and treat infection

Illustrative: A lab assistant holds a blood sample to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, April 28, 2020, in Houston, Texas (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Illustrative: A lab assistant holds a blood sample to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, April 28, 2020, in Houston, Texas (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

US biotech firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said Thursday that it has started clinical trials on a potential treatment for coronavirus, using antibodies produced by those who have recovered from COVID-19.

The treatment, the company said, uses a combination of two antibodies to treat those sick with the virus and as a preventive measure to help inoculate those still healthy.

“We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection,” the company’s chief scientific officer, George Yancopoulos, said in a statement, which did not give a timeline for when the company believes tests will be completed.

“We’ll [begin] hopefully to quickly test the safety and then start understanding the efficacy for four major different settings of this virus challenge,” he told CNBC.

Yancopoulos said he thinks that, “if all goes well,” the company could have “definitive data” within a few months on the effectiveness of the antibody mix.

“I think there’s a lot of reason for hope,” Yancopoulos added while saying “there’s always reasons to be concerned and to be cautious.”

“So we’re going to be moving forward very carefully, hand-in-hand with the FDA, and we hope sooner rather than later we can get answers that can really make a difference,” he said.

The announcement comes as dozens of medical research teams and pharmaceutical companies around the world race to come up with vaccines and treatments for the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Last week, British pharma giant AstraZeneca said it was is “on track” to begin rolling out up to two billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine in September if ongoing trials prove successful.

The company is partnering with Oxford University, which has pioneered the vaccine, and is already manufacturing doses before seeking final regulatory approval once testing concludes in the coming months.

“So far we’re still on track… we are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now, and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC radio.

“Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August, so in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine or not.”

Oxford University began initial trials of its COVID-19 vaccine with hundreds of volunteers in April, and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants.

It said last month they were “progressing very well.”

Researchers announced this week they will also start tests in mid-June in Brazil, the first country outside Britain to take part in the study, as the South American country’s virus infection rate spirals while the UK’s falls.

AP contributed to this report.

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