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GSK, Vir Biotech to test COVID-19 antibody treatment

The long-acting single injection will be tested on recently diagnosed high-risk cases for its ability to prevent hospitalisation

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GlaxoSmithKline and partner Vir Biotechnology have started testing their experimental antibody on early-stage COVID-19 patients.

The British company said that the long-acting single injection will be tested on recently diagnosed high-risk cases for its ability to prevent hospitalisation, typically a life-threatening disease stage.

GSK, which in April moved to invest $250 million in Vir and agreed to collaborate on the antibody, is behind some peers in developing the class.

Regeneron, which is working on antibody manufacturing with Roche, expects initial data from ongoing trials of its COVID-19 two-antibody combination in September.

Eli Lilly, working with biotech firm AbCellera, early this month started testing whether their antibody can prevent the infections in nursing homes. A separate trial testing the compound on recently diagnosed COVID patients may yield initial data in September or shortly after.

“We’re coming into the clinic a little bit later and part of that is because we spent some time selecting what we believe will be a best-in-class antibody,” said George Scangos, CEO, Vir Biotech.

The antibody is designed to not only block the virus from invading cells but also to recruit immune cells to kill already infected cells, which would otherwise replicate the virus.

It also has been altered to stay effective for several months on a single shot and to cling to a part of the virus’s outer spike protein that has shown no tendency to mutate.

After testing the drug on an initial 20 US participants over two weeks for safety, the trial will expand to 1,300 patients globally.

GSK said initial results could be available by the end of the year, complete results during the first quarter of 2021, and early access to patients could be on the cards before June.

In future studies, GSK and Vir plan to run more trials on their antibody’s ability to prevent the infection and treat patients that are already in hospital care. Later this year, they plan to start a trial of a second antibody from the collaboration.

(Edits by EP News Bureau)

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