Regeneron begins phase III trials of REGN-COV2; here's how antibody cocktail can help COVID-19 patients
Currently, the antibody cocktail, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Regeneron, is in the phase 2 treatment trials stage
Several vaccines and treatment options are undergoing trial across the world to find a cure for the new infectious COVID-19 disease. There is great urgency attached to this process, as the disease has already spread to more than 1.1 crore people across the world, with the number of new cases confirmed still rising daily.
Drugs like remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine and many others are being repurposed to help treat the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, US, along with Regeneron, a leading pharmaceutical company in the US, have reportedly developed the most potent cocktail of human antibodies which can be used as an anti-viral therapy against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
What is an antibody cocktail?
As the name suggests, an antibody cocktail is the mixture of two antibodies which can combine to form a more potent and effective antibody therapy to fight against that specific disease. After the glory achieved by the monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against various diseases, scientists have been trying to use them to find the cure for COVID-19 .
In a study published in the journal Science on 15 June 2020, researchers from Regeneron and the University of Maryland School of Medicine stated that by isolating, testing and combining the mAbs from the genetically engineered mice with the plasma derived from the recovered COVID-19 patients, they have made an antibody cocktail which can help in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
What are monoclonal antibodies?
Monoclonal antibodies are molecules which are produced in laboratories that have the potential to mimic the antibodies produced by the immune system of our body to fight against the foreign microbes (antigen). These mAbs bind to the antigens present on the surface of the unhealthy cells, thus deactivating them.
To form the desired mAbs, the Regeneron scientists tested thousands of human antibodies found in the plasma donations of recovered COVID-19 patients to find out which antibody had the ability to bind with the spike protein on the surface of the novel coronavirus .
Meanwhile, the scientists also developed antibodies from genetically modified mice who produced human antibodies when they were infected with the virus.
This technique helped scientists find the most effective antibodies against the virus. The results of this vigorous testing showed that there were four antibodies which had the potential to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, two of these four, REGN10933 and REGN10987, formed the most powerful antibody mix when used in combination.
Phase-3 trial of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail
Regeneron started the first clinical trial of this antibody cocktail, named as REGN-COV2, on 12 June 2020. The first phase was based on tracking the safety of the cocktail and the first two phases (phase one and phase two) were designed to assess the effectiveness of REGN-COV2 in the treatment of hospitalised and non-hospitalised COVID-19 patients.
Currently, the antibody cocktail is in the phase 2 treatment trials which are being done on 1,850 hospitalised and 1,050 non-hospitalised patients at approximately 150 sites in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.
Regeneron, in their recent statement on 6 July 2020, announced that their antibiotic cocktail would be going in Phase 3 trial which will evaluate the ability of the cocktail to prevent infection among uninfected people who have been in close contact with a COVID-19 infected patient. The trial is being done along with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and would enrol almost 2,000 patients from the US.
The researchers from Regeneron believe that this antibody cocktail can prevent the further spread of the disease until a vaccine is made.
For more information, read our article on Convalescent plasma therapy.
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