Scientists in the UK have begun trials of innovative drugs against antibodies that they hope will provide immediate protection against COVID-19.
University College London Hospital’s NHS Trust (UCLH) said the Storm Chase study researchers believe that a Long Acting AntiBody (LAAB) developed by AstraZeneca called AZD7442 can provide immediate, long-term protection to people who have recently been exposed could target the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and prevent them from developing COVID-19.
The UCLH virologist Dr. Catherine Houlihan-led study recruited the world‘s first participant to the study earlier this month and has since recruited 10 participants.
“We know this combination of antibodies can neutralize the virus, so we hope that giving this treatment by injection to exposed individuals can result in immediate protection against the development of COVID-19 – when it is too late to offer it.” a vaccine, “said Houlihan.
UCLH said the new vaccine research center is conducting two clinical trials testing a combination LAAB treatment for protection against COVID-19.
The second Provent study looks at the use of AZD7442 in people who may not respond to vaccination, such as those who have a weakened immune system or are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection due to factors such as age and existing conditions .
“We will be recruiting people who are elderly or in long-term care with conditions like cancer and HIV that can affect their immune systems’ ability to respond to a vaccine.
“We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative that is equally protective,” said Dr. Nicky Longley, UCLH Infectious Disease Advisor who led the Provent study.
Antibodies are protein molecules that the body makes to fight infections. Monoclonal antibodies are artificially made in a laboratory and designed as potential medical treatments. They are intended to be injected directly into the body, unlike vaccines, which “train” the immune system itself to produce antibodies.
“These two clinical trials are important additions to testing new therapeutic approaches as antibody treatments can provide an alternative to groups of patients who cannot benefit from a vaccine, such as immunocompromised patients,” said Professor Stephen Powis, the National’s medical director Health Service (NHS) England.
The LAABs are designed with AstraZeneca’s “proprietary” half-life extension technology to increase the shelf life of therapy after a single administration for six to 12 months. The combination of two LAABs is also said to reduce the risk of resistance developed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
“AZD7442 has the potential to be a critical preventive and therapeutic medicine for COVID-19, focused on the most vulnerable patients. This work complements our vaccine development program,” said Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of research and development, BioPharmaceuticals at AztraZeneca.
“Storm Chaser is investigating the use of a combination of monoclonal antibodies given intramuscularly in patients exposed to SARS-CoV-2 – a situation where the vaccination would not have time to work and we have no other proven therapies to date. Storm Chaser is an important study that can have a major impact on our ability to control this infection, “noted Professor Andrew Ustianowski, who is the lead researcher on the new studies.
UCLH said the researchers at both Provent and Storm Chaser will assess whether the treatment reduces the risk of developing COVID-19 and / or the severity of the infection compared to placebo.
Key groups of participants in the Storm Chaser Study include healthcare workers, students living in group accommodation, and patients exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as residents of long-term care facilities and industrial / military facilities.
Both studies are taking place at UCLH’s newly created Vaccine Research Center, which opened this month to accelerate the development of new vaccines and treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Both Storm Chaser and Provent are critical to finding a solution to this pandemic,” said Professor Vincenzo Libri, who heads the UCLH Clinical Research Facility, supported by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
“The opening of our new vaccine research center will help advance our fight against the virus, fulfill our quest to save as many lives as possible and ensure a return to normal,” he said.
“The recent advances in vaccines are very much to be welcomed, and the development of these additional treatments will be vital to ensure that everyone in society can be protected against COVID-19,” said Professor Marcel Levi, UCLH Executive Director.