AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has launched a new trial of an antibody therapy it hopes could prevent and treat the coronavirus.
It comes as the UK biopharmaceutical giant also said its separate potential vaccine, created in partnership with the University of Oxford, could be sent to regulators for approval this year if clinical trials progress as hoped.
The new first-phase trial is for AZD7442, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) which mimic natural antibodies and neutralise the virus.
The first of up to 48 healthy adults in the UK trial have now received doses. The project is funded by the US government, according to a statement released by AstraZeneca on Monday.
The Cambridge-based company hopes the antibodies will provide at least six months of protection from COVID-19. It has previously said it hopes antibody-based treatment could be “complementary” to vaccines, including for those unable to be vaccinated and people at high-risk, who would receive added protection.
The antibodies also have the potential to “provide immediate effect in the patient,” with scientists evaluating whether they will work as a potential treatment as well as preventative measure.
Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said: “This trial is an important milestone in the development of our monoclonal antibody combination to prevent or treat COVID-19.
“This combination of antibodies, coupled to our proprietary half-life extension technology, has the potential to improve both the effectiveness and durability of use in addition to reducing the likelihood of viral resistance."
AstraZeneca’s separate vaccine trial with Oxford University researchers has been one of the most promising globally since the pandemic hit. The company’s stocks are trading 16.5% higher than a year ago.
Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, also told the BBC on Tuesday: "It is just possible that if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials, that we could have that data before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data.”