Scientists say injection of cloned antibodies could help treat people already infected, while vaccine development continues
Press Association – The Guardian
Antibody therapy may help people in the early stages of coronavirus. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
Scientists working on coronavirus treatments may be close to a breakthrough on an antibody treatment that could save the lives of people who become infected, it has been reported.
An injection of cloned antibodies that counteract Covid-19 could prove significant for those in the early stages of infection, according to the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot told the newspaper that the treatment being developed is “a combination of two antibodies” in an injected dose “because by having both you reduce the chance of resistance developing to one antibody”.
Antibody therapy is more expensive than vaccine production, with Soriot saying the former would be prioritised for the elderly and vulnerable “who may not be able to develop a good response to a vaccine”.
On Thursday, AstraZeneca signed a deal with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) to help manufacture 300million globally accessible doses of the coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford.
AstraZeneca has already started to manufacture the Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine to ensure that if it does pass human trials, it can be made available in the autumn. Trials of the potential vaccine have started in Brazil, a new epicentre of the pandemic, to ensure the study can be properly tested as transmission rates fall in the UK. The Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group began development on a vaccine in January, using a virus taken from chimpanzees.
One member of Cepi is the Serum Institute of India, which the Sunday Telegraph reports is considering other “parallel” partnerships with AstraZeneca that may lead to the antibody treatment being funded as a stand-alone treatment.
Meanwhile UK-based vaccine manufacturer Seqirus announced it was working in partnership with parent company CSL, Cepi and the University of Queensland to help develop a candidate Covid-19 vaccine in Australia. Its manufacturing base in Liverpool is producing an adjuvant, an agent that improves the immune response to a vaccine.