Eli Lilly and AbCellera have begun Phase I testing of their newly developed antibody treatment for COVID-19. The companies joined forces in a collaboration that saw them screen and identify antibodies from the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients. Within a span of two months, the partners were able to zero in on an antibody candidate and move it into clinical trials, with the first patients having been dosed recently.
The first patients in the trial were dosed at medical centers across the US, including NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
LY-CoV555 is the neutralizing IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) that the companies derived from a recovered COVID-19 patient. The compound targets the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection.
The antibody specifically attaches to the spike (S) protein found on the outer coating of the virus; this protein plays a key role in viral attachment and entry into host cells. The antibody was developed into a therapeutic drug designed to bind to the S protein, thereby preventing the virus from attaching to cells and causing infection.
Given that LY-CoV555 is an antibody isolated from the blood of a recovered patient, Eli Lilly said LY-CoV555 is the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack SARS-CoV-2.
The pressing need for COVID-19 treatments saw LY-CoV555 being developed in a record amount of time, taking less than three months for the compound to first be screened and then advance to first-in-human clinical trials.
The project began when Vancouver-based biotech company AbCellera designed a rapid artificial intelligence-based pandemic response platform which it used to identify the antibody candidate from the blood sample of one of the first US patients who had recovered from COVID-19. AbCellera identified the antibody within 11 days of screening. Eli Lilly then developed the antibody into a drug-based treatment.
Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories was all praises for the collaboration that yielded the quick identification and development of LY-CoV555, saying in a statement, “We are privileged to help usher in this new era of drug development with the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack the virus. Antibody therapies such as LY-CoV555 may have potential for both prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and may be particularly important for groups hardest hit by the disease such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”
Results from the Phase I trial are expected to be available later this month. Eli Lilly and AbCellera will review the Phase I data and make plans to move to broader Phase II efficacy trials, Skovronsky said. The Phase II study will include non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Alongside the clinical trials, Eli Lilly and AbCellera are planning to commence large-scale manufacturing of LY-CoV555 in order to meet potential demand.
“If LY-CoV555 becomes part of the near-term solution for COVID-19, we want to be ready to deliver it to patients as quickly as possible, with the goal of having several hundred thousand doses available by the end of the year,” said Skovronsky.
In addition to this first antibody, Lilly is aiming to test other neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 over the next several months. The drug developer is planning to test the antibodies both as single agent antibody therapies, as well as in combination with other antibodies in potential treatments for COVID-19