Can Coronavirus Antibodies Overcome Their Obstacles?
Coronavirus antibodies have potential both as a treatment for COVID-19 and as a prophylactic to prevent people exposed to the virus from developing the disease. Unfortunately, antibodies are not particularly easy for physicians to use. In this video by Motley Fool Live, registered on Feb. 1, Fool.com contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss the limits of antibodies.
Brian Orelli: Then story n ° 4. New data on antibody treatments. A die Eli lilly (NYSE: LLY)it’s a cocktail of two antibodies. They had previously, I believe, had data for a single antibody. With two antibodies, they reduce the risk of hospitalizations or death by 70% compared to placebo. There were 10 deaths in the placebo group and none in the group that received the cocktail. All the reduction was with – everyone who had an event in the cocktail group or hospitalizations. There are a lot of problems with this treatment. It must be administered early to be effective. But they want to keep it for the people most likely to get really sick. It’s hard to tell early on if someone is going to get really sick. Then you need a really high dose, which limited the manufacturing capacity to make the number of doses.
They are looking at a lower dose, at least in the pharmacokinetic data, which basically only concerns the amount of antibodies in the bloodstream. They seem to be able to get sufficient levels with a lower dose, and now they are testing a lower dose for effectiveness. It also takes an infusion time of 60 minutes. You are talking about people with COVID-19 who need to be infused normally. You think of pictures of cancer departments where people get injected and there’s a whole bunch of them sitting in chairs, nobody talking to the people they came with. Obviously, none of this is happening. Everyone will be dressed and separated. It’s really hard to get a 60 minute infusion from someone who has already tested positive for COVID-19. The company is looking to cut that down to 16 minutes, which might help a bit, but it’s still a big deal for everyone to get dressed and the concern of people administering the drug.
Keith Speights: These are real limitations for Eli Lilly’s antibody therapy here. This long period of infusion. Like you said, it has to be given so early, and they limit it to high risk patients. I think it remains to be seen what the real impact of Lilly’s antibody therapy will be. It’s a cocktail. One of these therapies is already on the market under emergency use authorization. The other is not. The cocktail is promising, but I think it will be important for Lilly to reduce the brewing time.
Orelli: They also test a cocktail with one of their antibodies with Vir Biotechnology‘s (NASDAQ: VIR) antibody. Vir works with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), but Vir is the one who discovered the antibody. The Vir antibody binds to an identical area between the original coronavirus that causes SARS and the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The fact that they are the same probably means that if you have a mutation in there it either reduces the effectiveness of the virus or makes it unable to infect cells at all. Hopefully this means that the antibody binding to that area would be active against any variant that might appear, as variants in that region might not be active.
Speights: Brian, don’t you think we’re at this point where we’ll see more of this sort of thing where therapy from one company they study in combination with therapy from another company. I think we’re at that point in the lifespan of some of these development efforts that we’ll see more of in the future.
Orelli: I think we’ve even seen companies teaming up for manufacturing. I think solving the problem as a group is definitely the way to go. I think companies are more willing to do it, especially companies that are lagging behind and have no other options to get it.
Then Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) also has a COVID-19 antibody or a cocktail of antibodies against the coronavirus – two antibodies. They had data last week as a prophylaxis to prevent people from contracting COVID-19 – who were exposed because someone else in their household had it. They had 100% prevention of symptomatic infections. There were eight in the placebo group at 223 and none in the group got the cocktail out of 186. These were symptomatic infections. There have been asymptomatic infections for people who got the antibody, but there has been a decrease in the amount of virus they put on and the length of time they should have the virus. It seems to work pretty well as a prophylaxis, and I could see this as a better option than treatments, although it sort of becomes unnecessary once we have enough vaccines to cover everyone.
Speights: I think Regeneron even referred to this as passive vaccination. It is not a vaccine, but if you take it after being exposed, it may work. Does not work the same way, but it has some of the same effects as a vaccine because it prevents infection. I think the great thing about Regeneron Antibody Cocktail is that it doesn’t require an infusion. It’s just an injection, subcutaneous injections. I think that’s a big plus and it will probably open up more market potential. But like you said there, Brian, I think as the number of COVID vaccines is increasing and becoming more widely available, it might decrease the need for some of these other therapies and prophylaxis like this.
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