Shares of Humanigen Inc. (NASDAQ:HGEN) leapt 54.5% to $21.61 March 29 on news that its monoclonal antibody, lenzilumab, improved the relative likelihood of survival without mechanical ventilation in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, setting the company up to submit an application for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S. "as soon as possible," it said. Separately, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, the Eli Lilly and Co.-Abcellera Biologics Inc.-developed therapy bamlanivimab and the Vir Biotechnology Inc.-Glaxosmithkline plc candidate VIR-7831, demonstrated a 70% relative reduction in persistently high SARS-CoV-2 viral load at day seven compared to placebo for low-risk adult patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, the companies reported.
Positive COVID-19 efficacy numbers from Vir Biotechnology Inc. and Glaxosmithkline plc (GSK) has prompted them to immediately seek an emergency use authorization (EUA) with the FDA and similar authorizations in other countries for their monoclonal antibody, VIR-7831. Meanwhile, the phase III Remdacta study of Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) plus Veklury (remdesivir) vs. placebo plus Veklury, from Roche Holding AG and Gilead Sciences Inc., missed its primary endpoint in treating hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia receiving standard of care.
Another monoclonal antibody therapy has entered the pandemic fray with the FDA granting emergency use authorization (EUA) for bamlanivimab (LY-CoV555) 700 mg and etesevimab (JS016 or LY-CoV016) 1,400 mg as a cocktail for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients aged 12 and up at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.
Marking the first time monoclonal antibodies developed by separate companies will be tested in combination against COVID-19, Vir Biotechnology Inc.’s VIR-7831 will be added to Eli Lilly and Co.’s bamlanivimab in the ongoing phase II BLAZE-4 study in low-risk patients with mild to moderate disease. The collaboration comes as early research indicates some antibodies in development appear to lose activity when pitted against emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. VIR-7831 (also known as GSK-4182136), partnered with Glaxosmithkline plc, is designed to bind to a different epitope of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein than bamlanivimab. A dual-action antibody, VIR-7831 is designed to both block viral entry into healthy cells and clear infected cells.
With worrisome COVID-19 variants cropping up, developers including the likes of Gritstone Oncology Inc. and Vir Biotechnology Inc. continue their efforts to invent new vaccines that may get around the drawbacks of existing shots if they turn up.
While biopharmaceutical research is currently concentrating on the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease has provided a sharp reminder that our focus should not be lost on infectious diseases as a whole, along with the growing global problem of antibiotic resistance (AMR), which has the potential to dwarf COVID-19 in terms of deaths and economic costs, according to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).
The biotech industry's rapid response to COVID-19, a pivot of global scope, is driving a broad array of approaches to tackling the infection. On Monday, the first day of BIO's virtual convention, the trade group gathered some of the effort's leading voices to take stock of how those efforts are shaping up.
The biotech industry's rapid response to COVID-19, a pivot of global scope, is driving a broad array of approaches to tackling the infection. On Monday, the first day of BIO's virtual convention, the trade group gathered some of the effort's leading voices to take stock of how those efforts are shaping up. It put a spotlight on work underway at Athersys Inc., Regeneron Inc., SAB Biotherapeutics Inc., Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Vir Biotechnology Inc.
The devastating societal and economic effects caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should sound a warning bell on how ill-prepared we are in our ability to fight lethal infectious diseases for which no effective therapies or vaccines currently exist. Indirectly, the intense public attention on companies that are engaged in developing COVID-19 cures is also spilling over to companies researching to uncover new anti-infectives that will be needed to replace the diminishing arsenal of effective therapies to combat drug-resistant bacteria and fungi. This is certainly evident among public companies in the space, with the BioWorld Infectious Diseases index showing an increasing upward trend since the beginning of the year. At market close on May 11, the index had, in fact, grown in value by a whopping 47%.