These Biotech Companies Are Attempting to Use Improved Antibody Technology in the Fight To Eradicate COVID-19

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The following post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga.

Antibodies form the backbone of our immune systems. Each of these highly specialized blood proteins are produced by our B-cells to attack one specific antigen (a substance that enters the body and triggers an immune response). Because of their precise specialization, researchers have been looking for ways to harness antibodies to create treatments that are both powerful and targeted.

Since the first monoclonal antibody was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1986, significant progress has been made in making these treatments more affordable, more reliable and more effective. Today, limitations still exist, but according to many, antibody technology is one of the best tools for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the latest developments from the biotech world.

FDA Approves First Publicly Available COVID-19 Therapeutic

In September, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for an antibody treatment to be used as a prophylaxis for patients who have been exposed to COVID-19. It combines bamlanivimab, discovered by AbCellera ABCL and etesevimab, discovered by Eli Lilly and Co. LLY, Shanghai Junshi Biosciences Co. Ltd. (SHA: 688180) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology.

While the vaccines now available are curbing the spread of COVID-19, doctors still need a way to treat patients who have already been infected. Severe cases of COVID-19 can be fatal, and with new variants developing resistance to our current vaccines, a way to treat patients with COVID-19 and to prevent the infection from progressing to a more fatal level is key.

The combined treatment has been shown to prevent severe cases when given to patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms or patients who aren’t infected but have immunodeficiencies that make them vulnerable to infection even if they are vaccinated.

Humanigen Resumes Clinical Trials for Antibody Treatment Targeting Cytokine Storm

One of the major risk factors in COVID-19 patients is the threat of cytokine storm, an inflammatory condition that occurs when an overworked immune system starts attacking its own body as it tries to fight the virus.

Humanigen Inc. HGEN has been working hard to develop an antibody treatment that could prevent cytokine storms from happening or minimize the damage when they do. It does this by targeting the cytokines themselves.

While the FDA rejected Humanigen’s request for emergency use authorization last month, it invited the company to apply again when it had more clinical data available. Despite the setback, ongoing trials continue to study the potential benefits of the antibody treatment, and the company is working to get authorization in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

NanoViricides Develops a Broad-Spectrum Viral Treatment Platform

While treatments that lessen the mortality rate of COVID-19 are important, NanoViricides Inc. NNVC is hoping to pioneer a way to actually target the virus directly rather than minimizing symptoms.

The NanoViricides platform differs from other antibody technology in some important ways. For one, the company states that it attacks the virus at multiple points at once, and engulfs it, thereby destroying the ability of the virus to attack cells.

It’s also designed to look like the host’s own cell surface, effectively tricking the virus into binding to it. Because a virus’s binding sites don’t change, even after it mutates into new strains, the platform has the potential to offer a broad-spectrum treatment across multiple strains. In contrast, antibodies are highly specific and variants emerge in the field that escape the antibodies.

As the COVID pandemic has shown us, this ability to attack multiple strains as a virus mutates is important. Studies have found that while the available vaccines had an average effectiveness of 87.5% against the original COVID-19 virus, they’re only 60-65% effective against the Delta variant. While exact numbers aren’t available, the less common A.30 variant also seems to exhibit high resistance to both Pfizer Inc. PFE and AstraZeneca plc AZN vaccines. 

The more a virus spreads, the more it could mutate and evolve in an arms race against our vaccines and treatments. So, a platform with the potential to remain effective against these evolving strains would be a major breakthrough in the global fight against COVID-19.

The preceding post was written and/or published as a collaboration between Benzinga’s in-house sponsored content team and a financial partner of Benzinga. Although the piece is not and should not be construed as editorial content, the sponsored content team works to ensure that any and all information contained within is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and research. This content is for informational purposes only and not intended to be investing advice.

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