AstraZeneca’s Covid antibody drug heads into advanced trials

Drug to be assessed for ability to stave off infections for up to a year in some people

AstraZeneca started late-stage trials for an antibody medicine against Covid-19 with a large investment from the US, after President Donald Trump credited a similar therapy with aiding his recovery.

Two trials for more than 6,000 people are starting in the next few weeks, focusing on prevention, with plans for a further 4,000 adults to test the antibody medicine as a treatment, Astra said in a statement. The drug will be assessed for its ability to stave off infections for as much as a year in some people and as a pre-emptive medicine after exposure to the virus in others.

AstraZeneca is one of a number of companies exploring monoclonal antibodies as a way to prevent and treat Covid-19, which could be key for high-risk populations who may not respond well to a vaccine. The US has already secured hundreds of thousands of doses of the experimental treatments.

Eli Lilly and Co, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, last week asked the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorisations but haven't yet received clearance. Mr Trump has said Regeneron's antibody cocktail was key to his apparent recovery from coronavirus.


Lilly, Regeneron

Early data from both Eli Lilly and Regeneron suggest the medicines are effective in keeping infected people out of the hospital. GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Vir Biotechnology also started advanced tests on a possible antibody treatment last week.

AstraZeneca has agreed to supply as many as 100,000 doses to the US by the end of 2020, with an option for the country to buy a million additional doses in 2021. The US previously gave the British pharmaceutical company $25 million for the discovery and evaluation of the monoclonal antibodies, and the phase-one trial started in August.

AstraZeneca shares were little changed early Monday in London. The company’s long-acting antibody “has the potential to provide immediate and long-lasting effect in both preventing and treating Covid-19 infections,” chief executive officer Pascal Soriot said in a statement released on Friday. – Bloomberg