Companies rush to develop drugs that stay ahead of coronavirus mutations
Drugmakers are rushing to develop a new generation of Covid-19 drugs to make them easier to administer to patients and to stay ahead of viral mutations that could make some current drugs less effective.
Drugs, called monoclonal antibodies, are versions of antibodies designed in the lab that mimic the body’s natural immune response to viruses. They are considered to be among the most promising for preventing infected patients from developing severe or fatal symptoms and keeping them out of hospital. After catching Covid-19, President Trump was treated with any of the drugs and credited him with his speedy recovery. Doctors say drugs will continue to be important treatments for the foreseeable future, as vaccines become more widely available.
When the first generation of drugs has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November to treat patients not yet sick enough to be hospitalized, public health officials feared there wasn’t enough for everyone. But these worries gave way to the frustration that drugs are not used due to the difficulties of administering the drugs, which may require about an hour of preparation before the patient arrives, an hour of infusion, and an hour of monitoring to ensure that patients do not suffer from allergic reactions.
To reduce the logistical burden and help treat patients earlier, researchers are working on new antibody-based drugs that can be given with rapid injections into the arm, similar to flu shots. They would allow patients to seek treatment quickly after being diagnosed with Covid-19, said Michel C. Nussenzweig, immunologist and professor at Rockefeller University in New York.
“It changes everything because you can go get the CVS shot and go to your doctor’s office to do it,” said Dr Nussenzweig, whose lab developed a combination of antibodies that recently began the first studies of phase 1 safety. “Intravenous administration is a headache. It’s just a heavy thing to do.