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Pharma Companies Eli Lilly, AbCellera Begin First Human Trials of COVID-19 Antibody Treatment

US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly revealed Monday in a news release that it has started phase one of a potential COVID-19 antibody treatment in humans.

The experimental treatment, LY-CoV555, is the product of a joint collaboration between Eli Lilly and Canadian biotechnology company AbCellera. The two companies developed the COVID-19 antibody treatment, the first of its kind, in less than three months, deriving it from the blood of one of the first US patients to have recovered from the respiratory illness. 

The neutralizing IgG1 monoclonal antibody is designed to prevent the attachment and entry of  SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to human cells. According to Eli Lilly, this is the first drug that has been specifically designed to block COVID-19 infection because it was derived from a recovered patient.

The antibody has now been experimentally administered to patients at large US medical facilities, including the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. 

«We are grateful to collaborate with colleagues at AbCellera, NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases], and the many academic institutions who have helped us reach this milestone in humanity’s fight against COVID-19 — a disease first characterized only six months ago,” Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said in the June 1 release.

“We are privileged to help usher in this new era of drug development with the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack the virus. Antibody therapies such as LY-CoV555 may have potential for both prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and may be particularly important for groups hardest hit by the disease such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems,» Skovronsky added.

The two companies expect to see the results of the phase one trial in June and also plan to carry out additional efficacy trials soon after if the trial is deemed successful.

Participants in the phase two study would be non-hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Eli Lilly and AbCellera are also planning on starting large-scale manufacturing of the treatment.

«Later this month, we will review the results of this first human study and intend to initiate broader efficacy trials. At the same time as we are investigating safety and efficacy, we also are starting large-scale manufacturing of this potential therapy. If LY-CoV555 becomes part of the near-term solution for COVID-19, we want to be ready to deliver it to patients as quickly as possible, with the goal of having several hundred thousand doses available by the end of the year,» Skovronsky noted.

As of Monday afternoon, Eli Lilly’s shares were up by 0.13%.


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