AstraZeneca trials Covid-19 antibody drug on first volunteers

25 August 2020, 10:20

AstraZeneca has said the first volunteers have now been dosed in its clinical trial
AstraZeneca has said the first volunteers have now been dosed in its clinical trial. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has tested its Covid-19 antibody-drug on the first round of volunteers.

The first participants have taken part in the firm's clinical trial of a new drug - known as AZD7442 - to help prevent and treat coronavirus.

AstraZeneca, which is also working on the development of a vaccine for the virus with scientists at the University of Oxford, said the drug is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies - which works by mimicking the human body's natural antibodies.

Up to 48 healthy volunteers, aged between 18 and 55, will be taking part in the UK trial which will establish the safety of the treatment, as well as how the body reacts to and processes it.

The group, whose headquarters are in Cambridge, said the phase 1 clinical trial is an "important milestone" in the drug's development.

They hope it will be able to prevent those who are exposed to Covid-19 from contracting the virus and that it will treat infected patients.

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The antibodies used in the trial were sourced from patients infected with coronavirus and were discovered by Vanderbilt University Medical Centre before being licensed to AstraZeneca in June.

Astra then boosts the combined antibodies so that they "afford at least six months of protection from Covid-19".

Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at Astra, said: "This trial is an important milestone in the development of our monoclonal antibody combination to prevent or treat Covid-19.

"This combination of antibodies, coupled to our proprietary half-life extension technology, has the potential to improve both the effectiveness and durability of use, in addition to reducing the likelihood of viral resistance."

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If the trial is successful, the pharmaceutical giant said it would look to move the treatment to late-stage phase 2 and phase 3 trials.

The trial is being funded by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

It comes after Downing Street said on Monday the UK would be first in line for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astra, once approved.

This followed reports that Donald Trump was considering granting emergency authorisation for it to be fast-tracked in the US.

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