Lilly begins world's first human study of antibody to treat COVID-19

Eli Lilly said Monday that the first patients have been dosed in a Phase I trial investigating the experimental antibody LY-CoV555 for the treatment of COVID-19. The company, which is developing the drug with partner AbCellera, noted that the move marks the world's first study of a potential antibody treatment designed to fight COVID-19.

According to Lilly, LY-CoV555 was developed in three months after AbCellera and the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) identified it from a blood sample taken from one of the first US patients who recovered from COVID-19. "Antibody therapies…may have potential for both prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and may be particularly important for groups hardest hit by the disease such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems," remarked Daniel Skovronsky, president of Lilly Research Laboratories.

Results by end of month

Lilly indicated that results from the placebo-controlled study in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 are anticipated by the end of June. If the findings are positive, the company plans to initiate a Phase II trial to assess efficacy in non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients, whilst also exploring its use in a preventative setting, focusing on vulnerable patient populations who historically are not optimal candidates for vaccines.

"At the same time as we are investigating safety and efficacy, we also are starting large-scale manufacturing of this potential therapy," noted Skovronsky, adding "we want to be ready to deliver it to patients as quickly as possible, with the goal of having several hundred thousand doses available by the end of the year."

First shot on goal

LY-CoV555 represents the lead antibody from Lilly's collaboration with AbCellera, which was announced in March and later expanded to include up to eight therapeutic targets. The neutralising IgG1 monoclonal antibody is directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Lilly noted that it also plans to test other neutralising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 over the next several months, both alone and in different combinations.

Other companies developing antibody therapies for COVID-19 include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which plans to soon begin clinical studies for a multi-antibody cocktail that can be administered as prophylaxis before exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus or as treatment for those already infected.

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