Eli Lilly Begins Testing COVID-19 Drug
The study attempts to capitalize on the molecular defenses developed by a survivor of the virus, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company is assessing the drug's potential to treat hospitalized patients and prevent infection. The drug utilizes antibodies found in recovered patient plasma. Antibodies are products of the immune system and work to combat pathogens.
The therapy has been named LY-CoV555 and doesn’t contain the antibodies of recovered patients, but was inspired by antibodies in the plasma. Researchers at Lilly partner AbCellera Biologics Inc along with the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases discovered an antibody in the plasma of one of the first US patients that recovered from COVID-19.
Scientists at Lilly cloned the antibody and are now testing its effects. The antibody hopes to effectively block the virus from attaching to human cells. “We’re not experienced in vaccines, or antiviral small molecules,” Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said. “But we’re really good at antibodies, engineering them, testing them, manufacturing them. That’s a capability we have, so the opportunity to work on antibodies against Covid-19 made total sense.”
The drug is administered with an IV. Researchers are expecting to enroll as many as 32 patients in the study. One of the sites for the study is at NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York.
“What we’re doing here is taking patients with Covid, offering the opportunity to participate in a new treatment, hopefully to help them recover more quickly and uneventfully from their infection,” said Dr. Mark J. Mulligan, director of the infectious-disease and vaccine-research units at NYU Langone Health.
If the first study is successful, Lilly has plans to test the antibody on patients that are not hospitalized. Furthermore, Lilly has started ramping up production so that it has the ability administer hundreds of thousands of doses by the end of the year.