AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) has secured $486 million from the U.S. government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to support the development of AZD7442, an antibody cocktail for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

For its support, BARDA will get up to 100,000 doses of the drug and has the option to purchase up to 1 million additional doses of the treatment in 2021. The company didn't disclose the value of the potential million-dose contract.

AZD7442 is a cocktail of two long-acting antibodies designed to last for six to 12 months, making it especially useful for long-term prevention of COVID-19.

AstraZeneca plans to start two phase 3 clinical trials in the next few weeks. One study will test the ability of AZD7442 to prevent infection of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 for up to 12 months in approximately 5,000 participants. The second study will test the antibodies in 1,100 people who have been exposed to the virus in an attempt to prevent symptoms from developing.

A nurse administering an injection to a patient.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company also plans to test AZD7442 as a treatment for COVID-19, but it's behind Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:REGN), which have both already asked for emergency use authorizations for their respective coronavirus antibodies.

Vaccines will probably be more widely used given the relatively higher costs of manufacturing antibodies compared to the typical vaccine. Nevertheless, AZD7442 could be an option for patients with compromised immune systems. It could also see broader adoption if leading vaccines aren't able to protect people from COVID-19 for very long (or at all).

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