Swedish-British drug giant AstraZeneca recently said it was moving an antibody combination developed for Covid-19 treatment into late-stage human trials. The firm has also received around $486 million from the US government for the development and supply of this combination.
What is this therapy?
AZD7442, a similar class of the drug cocktail used to treat US President Donald Trump recently, is a combination of two long-acting monoclonal antibodies (LAAB). AstraZeneca developed it using its proprietary technology with the aim of preventing Covid-19 infection for a long duration.
LAABs mimic natural antibodies, and a combination of LAABs could be “complementary” to vaccines as a prophylactic agent, according to AstraZeneca. This means it could either be used on people for whom a vaccine may not be appropriate or it could be given as added protection for those at high-risk, it said.
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When did it come in? How much has this combination been tested?
The first phase of human trials for this combination started in August to assess aspects like the safety and tolerability of the combination in healthy individuals. In the next few weeks, AZD7442 will advance into phase 3 clinical trials in more than 6,000 participants at sites in and outside the US. One trial will evaluate its safety and efficacy to prevent infection for up to 12 months, in approximately 5,000 participants. The combination is also being tested for use as a prophylactic and pre-emptive treatment in approximately 1,100 participants.
AstraZeneca is planning additional trials to evaluate it in approximately 4,000 patients for Covid-19 treatment.
Is it similar to other experimental therapies?
This LAAB combination is similar to the experimental therapy developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals–a cocktail that Trump has been treated with after contracting Covid-19. Eli Lilly is another company that has worked on an antibody treatment. Regeneron and Lilly have both reportedly also sought emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for these therapies.
How is this relevant for India?
India accounts for the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world, with nearly 8.40 lakh active cases recorded as of 8 am on October 13. While a Covid-19 vaccine is still in the works and the country continues to figure out how it will supply the shots to its priority groups, AstraZeneca has said it will be ready to supply up to 100,000 doses of this antibody cocktail by the end of 2020. Considering the potential for India’s biopharmaceutical industry to reproduce such therapies with agreements and tech transfers from the company, such a therapy could add to the country’s basket of drugs to curb the spread of this virus and effectively treat those infected. That is, provided that the ongoing trials and any localised trials in India show that the cocktail is worth it.
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