AstraZeneca's antibody therapy prevents COVID-19

AstraZeneca's new antibody therapy reduced the risk of people developing COVID-19 symptoms by 77 per cent in a late-stage trial, putting the drugmaker on track to offer protection to those who respond poorly to vaccines.

The company said on Friday (Aug 20) that 75 per cent of the participants in the trial for the therapy - two types of antibodies discovered by Vanderbilt University Medical Center - had chronic conditions including some with a lower immune response to vaccinations.

 Similar therapies made with a drug class called monoclonal antibodies, which mimic naturally occurring immune system proteins, are being developed by Regeneron, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline with partner Vir.

But AstraZeneca is the first to publish positive COVID-19 prevention data from an antibody trial.

The good news on the therapy was tempered, however, by a separate AstraZeneca statement on Friday.

It said a trial of a treatment for the rare neurological disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), developed by AstraZeneca's newly acquired Alexion, had been stopped early due to a lack of efficacy.

AstraZeneca executive Mene Pangalos said the therapy trial results were taken three months after the antibodies were injected and investigators would follow up as far out as 15 months in the hope the company can tout the shot as a year-long shield.

Pangalos signalled that the prospects of a new COVID-19 product in AstraZeneca's medicine cabinet could also enhance the strategic value of its existing vaccine Vaxzevria, which it developed in collaboration with Oxford University.

"No other company has delivered two molecules against SARS-CoV2. This definitely helps us in positioning us in terms of COVID," Pangalos told Reuters. SARS-CoV2 is the scientific name for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Another leading AstraZeneca executive, Ruud Dobber, had said last month that different strategic options were being explored for AstraZeneca's vaccine operations, which have faced a string of challenges.

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