Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN 1.69%) announced on Tuesday that its scientists have identified hundreds of viral-neutralizing antibodies that could potentially be used to protect against and treat the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The company stated that it plans to pick the top two antibodies to include in a cocktail therapy for COVID-19, and hopes to begin clinical testing of a treatment in humans by early summer. By using more than one variety of antibody, the treatment will be able to target different parts of the coronavirus, which could make it effective against more viral variants. 

Mixing the cocktail

Antibodies target disease-causing pathogens in the blood, including viruses. Regeneron has isolated antibodies from mice that were genetically modified to have the same immune system as humans have. It also isolated antibodies from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to find those that could be most effective at targeting SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes this illness. 

Man wearing a protective mask and glasses holding a vial labeled with "coronavirus"

Image source: Getty Images.

After the top two most promising antibodies are selected, Regeneron will replicate small quantities of them to evaluate in a phase 1 study. The hope is that the resulting treatment will be effective both as one that can be given before exposure to the coronavirus and for individuals who have already been infected. The drugmaker is ramping up to produce hundreds of thousands of doses per month by the end of the summer.

Other efforts

In addition to its experimental cocktail therapy, Regeneron and its partner, Sanofi, have begun a phase 2/3 clinical study evaluating rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara as a treatment for patients with severe cases of COVID-19. It's believed that Kevzara could help alleviate the inflammation in the lungs that features in the most dangerous cases of the disease.