DETROIT – Medical experts have been using coronavirus antibodies in the form of convalescent plasma to help patients fighting COVID-19, but new research could take that concept to the next level.
The idea is creative a drug that would not only treat those infected with coronavirus, but potentially help prevent infections too.
According to biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, phase three clincal trials are now in the works for REGN-COV2, their combination antibody treatment for COVID-19.
The drug is a combination of two antibodies -- the proteins the body makes to naturally fight infections.
The clinical trials will evaluate the drug's ability to prevent infections in people who have had close contact with an infected person, such as members of their household.
It will include 2,000 U.S. patients at about 100 sites.
“We’re going to give people the actual antibodies,” said Regeneron CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer. “When we give you these antibodies, if you haven’t been infected, it should block you from getting infected.”
The antibody drug is also being tested in patients with COVID-19, both hospitalized and not hospitalized.
That portion of the testing will include nearly 3,000 patients in the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.
Regeneron was awarded a $450 million contract to manufacture and supply the antibody treatment as part of the federal government’s push to get a vaccine by January 2021.
If the clinical trials are successful and the drug is granted an emergency use authorization from the FDA, treatment could be available by autumn.
Regeneron has already started ramping up production. The company said if it is OK’d by the FDA, it would be available in the U.S. at no cost.
Other companies are testing antibody treatments. Many health experts consider antibody treatments a bridge toward getting a vaccine.