The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Thursday morning, there were more than 125,000 confirmed cases in the world, and the novel coronavirus had caused more than 4,600 deaths.  The importance of developing vaccines and treatments for this rapidly spreading disease can hardly be overstated.  

In light of that, a host of drugmakers are already looking to find ways to treat or prevent COVID-19, and the latest to join their ranks is  Eli Lilly (LLY -0.96%), the world's tenth-largest pharmaceutical company. On Friday, Eli Lilly announced it had entered into a partnership with a privately held AbCellera Biologics, which focuses on developing therapeutic antibodies. 

Test tube filled with blood for Coronavirus testing.

Image Source: Getty Images.

A race to beat COVID-19

Eli Lilly will bring its capacity for "rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies" to this partnership, while AbCellera will make use of its "rapid pandemic response platform." It's worth mentioning that after receiving a blood sample from the first U.S. patient who recovered from COVID-19, AbCellera was able to identify 500 antibody sequences with the potential to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). That's the largest known pool of potential antibodies against the novel coronavirus. 

The company will now try to identify which of these 500 antibodies could be the most effective against SARS-CoV-2. While it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on this partnership between Eli Lilly and AbCellera -- and how their joint efforts progress -- other pharmaceutical companies are further ahead in their quests to beat COVID-19. On Feb. 26, Gilead Sciences (GILD -0.44%) announced the initiation of two phase 3 studies to investigate the efficacy of its antiviral drug remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19.