Covid-19 treatment to be made in Ireland reduces virus levels and symptoms

An experimental two-antibody cocktail has reduced viral levels and improved symptoms in non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients, early study results have shown.

The potential treatment for the disease that has killed over a million people worldwide is owned by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, which has a large operation in Limerick.

The biopharmaceutical company is now set to add more than 400 jobs there in order to maximise capacity at its New York facility to produce large quantities of the Covid-19 treatment, according to the Irish Examiner.

Trial results for the treatment for its first 275 patients showed the biggest effect in patients who did not create high levels of their own antibodies against the virus.

That suggests the treatment, REGN-COV2, could help patients whose own immune system is not strong enough to combat the virus, Regeneron said.

It is also being studied for use in hospitalised patients, and for prevention of infection in people who have been exposed to Covid-19.

“We hope these data will support an EUA” (emergency use authorisation) from the US Food and Drug Administration, Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos said on a conference call.

Symptom relief

The drug is part of a class of biotech therapies known as monoclonal antibodies. Several companies are using the technology to manufacture copies of human antibodies to the new coronavirus.

Regeneron believes its dual-antibody formula will limit the ability of the virus to escape detection and attack.

Regeneron tested two different doses of REGN-COV2 in two patient populations: those who had mounted an effective immune response on their own and those whose immune response was not yet adequate.

In those with an inadequate immune response, the median time to symptom relief was 13 days for the placebo group, eight days for the high-dose group and six days for the low-dose group.

Regeneron said REGN-COV2 rapidly reduced virus levels in those with an inadequate immune response.

In addition, patients with higher virus levels at the start of the trial had correspondingly greater reductions in viral load with REGN-COV2, which is given by intravenous infusion.

“It is unclear, though possible, that the Regeneron cocktail could work in a hospital setting where the patient is already severely ill and has a high viral load,” Jefferies analyst Michael Yee said in a research note.

The US government in June awarded Regeneron a $450 million (€385 million) supply contract for up to 300,000 doses of the antibody cocktail.