In a first such trial in the United States, Regeneron is testing a COVID-19 antibody cocktail in multiple sites across the country, if successful the company hopes it could be available by fall.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. started the clinical trials on Wednesday. The antibody cocktail will be tested in four separate study populations, that is, those who are hospitalized for coronavirus treatment; people with COVID-19 symptoms, but not hospitalized and people who are healthy, but with a high risk for contracting the disease; and healthy people who came in close contact with a sick person.

"We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection, and also to preempt viral 'escape,' a critical precaution in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic," Dr. George Yancopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron said. "Ultimately, the world needs multiple solutions, and the innovative biopharma industry is collectively working hard to help as many people as possible with a variety of complementary approaches," he added.

How Does it Work?

SARS-CoV-2
Novel Coronavirus NIAID / Creative Commons

Antibodies are proteins, naturally made by the body to protect from threats like novel coronavirus. Not all will generate antibodies to coronavirus, hence the scientists make them, called 'monoclonal antibodies,' usually a cocktail of antibodies made by probing thousands of antibodies while selecting the most effective ones that fight off SARS-CoV-2.

In this case, Regeneron picked two such antibodies and prepared a medicine hoping to treat COVID-19. The first part of the trial will check the safety of the antibody therapy in humans. Antibody treatment is not a vaccine and doesn't give permanent protection. But this is a passive immunization which will work right away and will be available before a potential vaccine.

Other Antibody Trials

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SARS-CoV-2 Pixabay

Companies such as Eli Lilly and AbCellera have also started testing their antibodies in humans, this month. Eli Lilly has started a second clinical trial in China that is a single antibody treatment created with a Chinese company Junshi Biosciences. The company says that it would test other antibody combinations in the future, reports CNN.

Previously, Regeneron's Ebola treatment had worked well. The FDA accepted REGN-EB3 for a priority review, back in April. A decision on Ebola therapy would be made by October.