AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has requested emergency approval from US regulators for its COVID-19 antibody cocktail, which is the first protective shot against the virus other than vaccines.
This might be a big step forward in the global fight against the virus.
Unlike vaccinations, which rely on a healthy immune system to produce specific antibodies and infection-fighting cells, Astra’s biotech drug AZD7442 contains lab-made antibodies that stay in the body for months to confine the virus in the event of an infection.
Competitors Regeneron (REGN.O), Eli Lilly (LLY.N), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), and its partner Vir sell COVID-19 medicines based on the same family of monoclonal antibodies (VIR.O).
The AstraZeneca therapy, designed to last several months to a year, could protect people who do not have a strong enough immune response to COVID-19 vaccines due to, for instance, chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs after organ transplants.
The drug, given in two sequential injections, could also supplement a vaccination course for those, such as military personnel, who need to booster their protection further, AstraZeneca has said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Regeneron’s drug in September for use in preventing COVID-19 after exposure to infected people. AstraZeneca’s application is however for prevention before any exposure.
Astra’s AZD7442 fell through in the post-exposure setting in a trial in June. Another trial is ongoing to test the drug as a treatment of the infected.