To curb the spread of COVID-19, several pharmaceutical giants are already amidst the developmental stages of a potential vaccine. While a vaccine might help in immunizing people against COVID-19, it’s not useful for treating patients who’ve already been infected with it. This is where antibody-based therapies come to the rescue.
“For COVID-19 What are Antibody Therapies And which organizations are Developing Them”
Antibody therapies use antibodies, which are typically produced by plasma cells that help our immune system neutralize pathogens like viruses and bacteria. An antibody therapy is used to help our bodies fight various diseases, cancer, infections, etc. The antibodies used in such therapies are usually derived from infected humans or even animals, to help ward off diseases in patients.
With the global pandemic affecting thousands of people everyday researchers and scientists are looking into possible alternatives for vaccines. The use of convalescent plasma along with other plausible treatments made with the blood of recently recovered COVID-19 patients is being studied. However, the main issue with using convalescent plasma is that manufacturers would need a constant supply of antibody-rich blood to produce it. To resolve this issue, scientists have come up with monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies can be preserved and manufactured in large quantities, and do not require a constant supply of antibody-rich blood to produce.
Studies also show that these antibody drugs contain over ten thousand times more protein than vaccine shots, which has encouraged pharma brands like Eli Lily and Co and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to develop their treatments using this approach.
Differences Between Antibody Therapies and Vaccines
Typically, a vaccine generates an immune response that prevents someone from getting ill due to a pathogen-related illness. It works by introducing dead or weakened form of a virus/bacterium into the patient’s body and eliciting the immune response.
An antibody-based therapy, on the other hand, is designed to treat infected patients by introducing ready-antibodies. This makes their development much more complex and methodical.
Although the use of antibody therapies as a disease-prevention measure has been suggested by some drugmakers, it’s a much more expensive immunization measure. According to Feng Hui, Chief Operating Officer at Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, the amount of protein in antibody drugs makes the treatment more expensive than vaccines in general.
The Best Organizations That Are Developing Antibody Therapies For COVID-19
Big names in the pharmaceutical industry like Eli Lilly, Regeneron, and GlaxoSmithKline are working to develop different antibody treatments.
The quest has also led to the formation of powerful biomedical alliances, including Eli Lilly’s collaboration with Junshi and Canadian biotech firm AbCellera Biologics, the COVIg-19 Plasma Alliance between Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceuticals and CSL Behring, and collaboration between Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology Inc.
To test its antibody cocktail treatment, Regeneron is planning to begin clinical studies towards the end of June. The treatment was derived from antibodies of genetically modified mice and Regeneron aims to make hundreds of thousands of doses available to the public by the end of summer or fall.
Taking a slightly different approach, The COVig-19 Alliance is working on a developing a standardized dose of antibodies and doesn’t need to be restricted to patients with matching blood types. It would feature a hyperimmune globulin therapy derived from convalescent plasma.
A similar method is being taken by the Antibody Therapy Against Coronavirus (ATAC) project, which is funded by the European Commission and led by Sweden’s Karolinska research institute. The project is also looking at therapies based on monoclonal antibodies, under which human volunteers in Germany and animal volunteers in Switzerland are being tested with monoclonal antibodies extracted from convalescent plasma.
In the Asian region, Singapore’s research body A* Star is collaborating with Japan’s Chugai Pharmabody Research on an antibody for clinical use.