Eli Lilly, Regeneron's antibody drugs 'may be weaker' against SA variant

27 January 2021 - 14:18
By Miyoung Kim
Scientists have said new variants found in South Africa and Britain seem highly transmissible, raising concern that current drugs and vaccines might be rendered less effective.
Image: 123RF/KATERYNA KON Scientists have said new variants found in South Africa and Britain seem highly transmissible, raising concern that current drugs and vaccines might be rendered less effective.

Covid-19 antibody drugs developed by Eli Lilly and Co and Regeneron may be weaker against a new coronavirus variant found in SA, according to a study released on Tuesday based on laboratory tests.

Scientists have said new variants found in SA and Britain seem highly transmissible, raising concern that current drugs and vaccines might be rendered less effective.

The latest study comes as Eli Lilly said on Tuesday it is moving a new antibody therapy to clinical trials targeting the South African variant.

The study, which was done outside human bodies using a pseudovirus containing mutations found in the two variants to test antibody treatments, showed the SA variant appeared to affect a broader range of antibodies than the UK variant and was more worrisome. A pseudovirus mimics live coronavirus and can be handled in labs at lower biosafety levels.

An antibody treatment developed by Lilly saw its neutralising effect severely diminished against the pseudovirus mimicking South African variant, according to the research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed but was published online on BioRxiv, a website for research.

When used in combination with a treatment from Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, its activity against the pseudovirus was still largely crippled, researchers from Columbia University, Vaccine Research Center, Regeneron and others said in the paper released.

But a cocktail of antibody treatments from Regeneron remained potent, though one of the two antibodies showed impaired activity.

The study said its findings suggest that antibody treatment may need to be modified in places where the SA variant is prevalent.

Reuters