Regeneron Pharmaceuticals recently announced that it is testing a medicine for the treatment and/or prevention of Covid-19. According to an article by CNN, the testing of its anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody combination REGN-COV2 will take place in several locations throughout the nation.
This will be the first trial of an antibody “cocktail” conducted in the U.S. If all goes well, the company predicts that the drug could possibly be available in the fall of 2020.
Planning for a Pandemic
Regeneron’s scientists said that they have been preparing for a pandemic for years, and now they must develop a therapy to control it.
The company spokesperson said that the development of the antibody cocktail set a speed record by creating REGN-COV2 in a matter of months.
He explained that Regeneron has developed an anti-viral cocktail of antibodies that has the potential to treat and also prevent infection. It is being designed to prevent the ‘escape’ of the virus into other areas of the body, which is critical since we are in the middle of the global pandemic.
The Making of an Antibody
Antibodies are made naturally by the body to protect it from COVID-19 and similar threats.
The immune system makes antibodies that circulate throughout the body and bind to a foreign substance (antigen). Once the antibody is attached, they force other elements in the immune system to kill cells containing antigens.
Scientists need monoclonal antibodies in order to develop an antibody cocktail. This means that they scanned thousands of antibodies in order to determine the ones that are most effective against the coronavirus.
Regeneron’s scientists selected two antibodies, combining them to develop a medicine that they hope can especially protect the healthcare workers and the elderly.
The trial will begin with checking the therapy for safety in humans, and of course to “see if it works”.
Note that antibody treatments are not vaccines. They do not offer any type of permanent protection. They are considered to be ‘passive immunization,’ but the advantage is that they work almost immediately. The therapy could possibly be ready before a COVID-19 vaccine is made available.
Regeneron’s clinical trials are being conducted as of this writing. The trials will include four cohorts:
- People who have been admitted to a hospital with Covid-19
- People with Covid-19 symptoms but not hospitalized
- People who are considered high risk
- People who are healthy but who have been in close contact with a person who has the virus
Regeneron, based in Tarrytown, NY has been successful in creating FDA approved antibody therapies against eye problems, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
Data from its Ebola REGN-EB3 clinical trials show that it is an improvement over similar therapies. The FDA is expected to make a decision on whether to prove REGN-EB3 in October 2020.
In a press release, Regeneron’s president gave assurances that the biopharma industry is working towards a variety of approaches for COVID-19.
Other New Treatments Heading for Trials
- Eli Lilly together with AbCellera began in-human testing of a single antibody therapy as of June l, 2020
- Eli Lilly also began a second trial of single antibody therapy in China. This treatment was developed with Junshi Biosciences.
Eli Lilly reported that they will be testing combinations of antibodies against COVID-19 in the near future. Several other companies will be announcing their own antibody therapies.