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AZ cues up COVID-19 neutralising antibody trials

Drug company is working in partnership with Vanderbilt University in the US

AstraZeneca building

AstraZeneca has said it will start clinical trials of two antibodies targeting SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, within the next two months.

The two candidates have emerged from a partnership with Vanderbilt University in the US – focusing on up to six coronavirus-targeting neutralising antibodies – which was signed in April. The antibodies have the potential to recognise, bind to and neutralise SARS-CoV-2, decreasing the impact of COVID-19, according to AZ.

The two antibodies selected to go forward into the phase 1 trial as a combination therapy bind to separate parts of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, said Mene Pangalos, AZ’s head of biopharmaceuticals R&D.

Using two antibodies in tandem could improve efficacy and reduce the chances of SARS-CoV-2 developing resistance mutations that could undermine treatment, according to AZ.

AZ’s combination will start trials a few weeks behind two other neutralising antibody candidates, backed by Eli Lilly, that are already in human testing.

Earlier this month, Lilly and AbCellera started dosing patients in the US with their candidate LY-CoV555, while this week Lilly said its other partner Junshi Biosciences began a trial of JS016 in China, with US testing also due to start within the next few days.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based biotech Tychan said this morning it is also just about to start initial trials of its antibody TY027 in healthy volunteers next week.

AZ says its selection of six Vanderbilt candidates has come after it screened more than 1,500 monoclonal antibodies for the ability to bind to SARS-CoV-2 and inhibit its capacity to infect healthy cells.

The antibodies came from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, immunised humanised mice and laboratory techniques such as phage display, according to the drugmaker.

AZ’s work on the antibody cocktail will be supported by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The US government is providing $23.7m in funding and support for the production of antibodies for the phase 1 trial.

While the greatest hope for defeating the pandemic lies with the development of an effective vaccine – an area where AZ is also at the forefront with its Oxford University-partnered candidate AZD1222 – antibodies could be an invaluable weapon against the coronavirus.

Aside from their use in potentially improving survival and recovery in people who already have COVID-19, they may provide passive immunity to protect at-risk individuals, such as front-line health workers and vulnerable people who are not good candidates for a vaccine.

Cases of coronavirus have now topped an estimated seven million worldwide, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th June 2020

From: Research

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