US Drugmaker Begins Late Stage COVID-19 Antibodies Trial

    06 July 2020

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health and Lifestyle report.

    Drug-maker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced on Monday it has started late stage human testing of an antibody treatment for COVID-19. It said the tests are designed to show the drug's effectiveness in preventing and treating the disease.

    Regeneron is launching one of the drug trials jointly with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). The company said the goal is to test the drug's ability to prevent infections in persons who have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient.

    Regeneron said it hopes the late-stage drug trial will involve about 2,000 patients across the United States.

    George D. Yancopoulos is a co-founder and president of the New York-based company. He said in a statement, "We are running simultaneous adaptive trials in order to move as quickly as possible to provide a potential solution to prevent and treat COVID-19 infections, even in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic."

    Yancopoulos noted that the antibody treatment "could be available much sooner than a vaccine."

    Regeneron is holding two separate late stage trials following a positive review from an independent group of REGN-COV2 Phase 1 safety results. The earlier tests involved 30 hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

    The company said the late-stage Phase 3 prevention trial will take place at about 100 testing centers in the U.S. The aim of the trial is to examine SARS-CoV-2 infection status. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that cause COVID-19 disease.

    The other Phase 2 and 3 treatment trials are planned across 150 sites in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Chile. The trials will include over 1,800 hospitalized and 1,000 non-hospitalized patients.

    An EMT matches the number on a tube to the number of samples during a COVID-19 antibody test drive at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, May 14, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
    An EMT matches the number on a tube to the number of samples during a COVID-19 antibody test drive at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, May 14, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

    Antibodies are chemical molecules. The body's natural defenses produce antibodies to fight off infection.

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health notes that some researchers are testing whether antibodies against COVID-19 could be used as a treatment to others who are infected. Others are studying the structure and work of different antibodies to help guide the development of vaccines.

    There are concerns that the novel coronavirus can change in humans and resist the antibodies.

    Regeneron's REGN-COV2 treatment combines a "genetically-modified" antibody made by the company and a second antibody from recovered COVID-19 patients.

    The treatment is designed to connect the antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 and limit its ability to spread in an infected person. This idea has previously been used to develop drugs to treat other viruses such as HIV, the cause of AIDS.

    Yancopoulos noted last month that "individual antibodies, no matter how good, are likely not enough against the devastating virus that causes COVID-19 and the ways it seeks to 'escape' being neutralized."

    The results of the REGN-COV2 study were published June 15 in Science.

    Other drug-makers have begun human trials of their experimental treatments for fighting COVID-19. The companies include Gilead Sciences, Eli Lilly, and AbbVie.

    And that's the Health and Lifestyle report.

    I'm Anna Matteo.

    Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from Regeneron, Science and National Institutes of Health. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    simultaneous - adj. happening at the same time

    global - adj. involving the entire world

    pandemic - n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area

    positive - adj. good or useful

    review - n. examination or inspection

    status - n. a current state of something

    devastating - adj. causing great harm or damage