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Eli Lilly launches clinical trial of COVID-19 antibody treatment

Published on 02/06/20 at 12:41pm
Photo by CDC

Eli Lilly has announced they have started an early stage human trial to test an antibody treatment against coronavirus.

The experimental treatment that will use an antibody therapy, known as LY-CoV555, has been developed in collaboration with AbCellera Biologics. The antibody used is directed against the spike-shaped protein structures of the virus and is designed to stop it from locking on to human cells so it cannot spread. It was first identified from a blood sample of one of the first American COVID-19 patients who recovered from the virus.

In its Phase I trial, Eli Lilly will assess the tolerability and safety of the antibody with the goal of running a larger study that will begin to assess its efficacy in vulnerable populations. It will be tested on non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients in groups such as seniors as they derive limited immunity from vaccines.  The trial will be randomized and placebo controlled and doctors will not be informed on who receives the treatment or the placebo. The Phase 1 trial is expected to be completed by the end of June.

The company is gearing up to produce hundreds of thousands of doses by the end of the year. Dr Dan Skovoronsky, Eli Lilly's Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, said: “Until now, scientists have been trying to repurpose medicines, drugs, that were designed for new diseases to see if they work in Covid-19, but as soon as this epidemic started, we got to work making a new medicine against this disease. Now we're ready and testing it in patients.”

This type of antibody approach has previously worked to treat HIV, asthma, Ebola, and some cancers but it is not totally clear if it will be a success against COVID-19.

Conor Kavanagh

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