All eyes are on AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) coronavirus vaccine AZD1222, which is in late-stage testing and could be on the market in October.
But the U.K.-based pharma is still hedging its bets, launching a phase 1 clinical trial for AZD7442, a treatment for COVID-19.
AZD7442 is a mixture of two antibodies that were isolated from patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. AZD7442 is manufactured in a plant, unlike convalescent plasma that received an emergency use authorization on Sunday, which is collected from plasma of recovered patients. The purity of AZD7442 will increase the consistency of the product, but there are no guarantees the two antibodies AstraZeneca picked will block the virus in patients.
AstraZeneca will initially test AZD7442 in 48 healthy volunteers before moving the product into larger phase 2 and phase 3 studies, assuming the treatment is safe and tolerable. In addition to being used as a treatment for infected patients, AZD7442 could also be used as a preventative measure in patients who had been exposed to people infected with the coronavirus.
AZD7442 trails Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ: REGN) two-antibody-cocktail REGN-COV2, which is being tested in two phase 2/3 clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 and in a single phase 3 study for the prevention of COVID-19 in household contacts of infected individuals. The biotech recently teamed up with Roche (OTC: RHHBY) to help increase production and distribution of REGN-COV2, assuming it gains regulatory approval.
AstraZeneca's phase 1 study is being funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, so even if AZD7442 isn't needed because one or more of the vaccines and/or REGN-COV2 are largely successful, the hedge won't cost the drugmaker much.
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