(Reuters) – Eli Lilly and Co said on Monday it had started an early-stage trial to test its potential treatment for COVID-19, in the world’s first study of an antibody treatment against the disease.
Lilly is one of the several drugmakers and research institutions that are working on vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading novel coronavirus, which has already killed over 370,000 worldwide.
An antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences called remdesivir has shown some promise against COVID-19 and is being given to patients by some countries under compassionate or emergency use rule.
Lilly said its early stage study will assess safety and tolerability in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and results are anticipated by the end of June.
The experimental treatment, LY-CoV555, has been developed through collaboration with privately held AbCellera Biologics, which Lilly partnered with in March.
Lilly’s treatment is an antibody directed against the spike-shaped protein structures of the virus and is designed to block it from locking on to human cells, thus neutralizing the virus.
The drugmaker said the antibody treatment was developed after it was identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from the lung illness caused by the new coronavirus.
Lilly said it expects to move into the next phase of testing, studying the potential treatment in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, if the drug is shown to be safe.
Rival Regeneron Pharmacuticals Inc has said it plans to start clinical studies in June to test its antibody cocktail treatment for the new coronavirus and is aiming to have hundreds of thousands of preventative doses available by the end of August.
Lilly’s shares were up 2.5% in premarket trading but have settled back to $152.95 at midday, unchanged for the day.
Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty.