Earlier today I came across this very interesting article, where the Medicine Manufacturing Company Lilly announced the beginning of Phase 1 study of the first potential Antibody Treatment for COVID-19. A lot of people I interact on HIVE and on Discord have asked me on multiple occasions about a potential treatment for COVID-19 and if there were any advances. This study seemed quite interesting and I also liked the mechanism they were targeting with this potential drug, so I thought it'll be nice to update you guys with some promising news amidst all gloom!
What are Antibodies?
I will not go into a technical explanation of what an antibody is. In simplest terms, antibodies are proteins with very specific structures. Antibodies against different organisms have unique binding sites. The structure of these binding sites will recognize specific proteins or glyco-proteins (known as antigens) on the microbial organism. This makes antibodies very specific. Antibodies against a certain structure on a certain virus or bacteria will only bind and work against that specific organism containing that specific antigen.
Antibodies can be produced within our bodies in response to an infection. Tailored antibodies can also be manufactured in laboratories to serve for treatment purposes by injecting the antibody into the patients.
Study with the World's first Antibody against COVID-19 - LY-CoV555
LY-CoV555 is the first antibody against COVID-19 that has entered phase 1 study. The announcement was made on the 1st of June, 2020 that the first batch of patients have been dosed with the LY-CoV555. This is a placebo controlled study, meaning there are two groups of patients. One receiving the drug and the other group receiving placebo. The phase 1 study will asses the safety and tolerability of this new LY-CoV555 antibody.
By the end of June a result with comparison between the two groups is expected. If the phase 1 study shows, that the antibody can be safely administered and is well tolerated by the patients, LILLY will initiate the phase 2 of this study which will asses the efficacy (effectiveness) of the drug.
LILLY's chief scientific officer, Daniel Skovronsky had this to say about the potential antibody :
Antibody therapies such as LY-CoV555 may have potential for both prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
Now this part was very interesting. What this basically means is, LY-CoV555 could potentially be used similar to a vaccine as well. Now generally, vaccines are only effective if taken before the infection has occurred. Because they need to give the body time to generate it's own immune response and produce it's own antibodies. But with LY-CoV555, we are directly injecting the population with the antibody. So it can act as a method of prevention as well as a treatment after the infection has already occured.
Mechanism of Action of LY-CoV555
LY-CoV555 is a very strong and potent IgG1 monoclonal antibody designed to recognize a specific antigen on the SARS-CoV 2 (known to the general public as coronavirus) called the Spike Protein. The virus uses this Spike Protein to attatch to the cells of the respiratory epithelium and gain entry into the cells. This step is absolutely necessary for the infection to progress, because the Virus cannot replicate and cause damage if it has not gained entry into the host (human) cell. It need to use the resources inside the human cells to replicate and spread further.
The LY-CoV555 is designed to that it has an active binding site that has a shape which can bind to the spike protein. By binding to the spike protein, it will now no longer allow the virus to use this spike protein to bind to the respiratory epithelium, and thus it will not be able to replicate or cause any damage.
Now you may ask, well this will prevent the virus from getting entry into the human cell. But can it work as a treatment for patients in whom, the virus has already entered the host cell and is replicating already? Yes, it can. To understand how, first we need to know a little bit about how the virus spreads within the body.
Once it has gained access into a human cell, it replicates within the cell producing hundreds...thousands of more viruses. Now if these viruses stayed inside that same cell forever, there really wouldn't be any disease. But what happens is, these newly formed viruses will leave the host cell and now infect hundreds, thousands of new cells in the same person. This is where the LY-CoV555 comes into play. The antibody will bind to the spike proteins of these newly formed viruses and prevent this further spreading of the virus, and eventually, if the viruses can't get entry into a cell for long enough, it can not survive.
Let's hope the study brings some really positive results. The world could do with some good news right now! There are two more antibodies in work from LILLY. I'll try to update you guys about those once I've read up more about them.