Are monoclonal antibodies the path to curing COVID?

Very few patients have received monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of COVID-19. Therefore little is known about their safety and efficacy. But they may hold promise in the current pandemic.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created versions of antibodies that recognize a specific target (e.g. part of a virus). These monoclonal antibodies recognize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They are called “monoclonal” because they have been created from antibodies from a single immune cell.  Two or more different monoclonal antibodies can be combined into a “cocktail”.

Animal studies (that have not yet been peer-reviewed yet) suggest that a cocktail of antibodies could reduce viral levels and disease severity. Regeneron, the company behind President Trump’s cocktail, released some preliminary human data too. These results, which have not been reviewed by scientists outside Regeneron, suggest the cocktail reduces viral levels and shortens the length of COVID-19 infection for people with no to moderate symptoms.

Another randomized monoclonal antibody trial conducted by Eli Lilly has been underway for a while. It’s called the ACTIV-3 trial. The goal of the trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of a monoclonal antibody in combination with the antiviral remdesivir. Unfortunately, this trial was placed on hold.

Last update: October 20, 2020 03:00 pm ET

Science review: GSN, ERS