Glaxo says the Covid-19 antibody works against Omicron

GlaxoSmithKline GSK 1.16%

PLC and Vir Biotechnology Inc.

TO 4.38%

said that their Covid-19 antibody treatment retained efficacy against the Omicron variant in laboratory studies, although early data suggest that similar treatments work less well against the highly mutated strain.

The results suggest that at least one monoclonal antibody therapy – a form of treatment that has been shown to be helpful in detecting serious illness – will remain effective against Omicron, which has been discovered in dozens of countries including the United States since it was identified by researchers in the south. Africa two weeks ago.

“We are confident that sotrovimab will continue to provide significant benefits for the early treatment of patients hoping to avoid the most serious consequences of Covid-1[ads1]9,” said George Scangos, CEO of Vir, in a statement. He added that sotrovimab was slightly impaired by Omicron, but that the difference was not significant.

The result confirms previous laboratory data that indicate that the substance acted against the variant. These data, published last week, showed that sotrovimab maintained activity against several of Omicron’s key mutations. Researchers at the companies confirmed the findings, which have not been peer-reviewed, by testing the drug against the entire top of Omicron. They did so by building a so-called pseudovirus – which means they recreated the entire nail protein of Omicron on another virus – and worked this weekend to test sotrovimab against it, said Amanda Peppercorn, who heads covid-19 monoclonal antibody development at Glaxo.

The companies are also working with public health laboratories to test sotrovimab against the entire live virus. For other variants, tests against the spike alone have predicted the results against the entire virus, according to Dr. Peppercorn.

Omicron, which has around 50 mutations – an unusually high number – appears to spread faster than other strains, but there are early signs from a study in South Africa that it can cause milder disease. Researchers are testing whether it makes existing vaccines less effective.

Researchers and vaccine manufacturers are investigating Omicron, a Covid-19 variant with around 50 mutations, which has been discovered in many countries after spreading in southern Africa. Here’s what we know when the United States and others implement travel restrictions. Photo: Fazry Ismail / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Monoclonal antibodies mimic part of the body’s immune response to the virus and are usually used at an early stage of infection to reduce the risk of serious illness. In a large clinical study, sotrovimab reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 79% in people with mild or moderate Covid-19 with a high risk of developing serious disease.

Monoclonal antibody treatments target parts of the spike protein, where most of Omicron’s mutations are located, leading to concerns that these drugs may prove to be less effective against the new variant.

Glaxo and Vir say that sotrovimab was designed to target a point on the spiked protein that is also found in other coronaviruses, and which they believe is less vulnerable to mutations. But the other two authorized monoclonal antibody treatments, from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

and Eli Lilly & Co., may do worse against Omicron.

Regeneron has said that early studies indicated that the treatment was dulled by the new variant, and that it is conducting further tests to confirm this finding. The company says it has developed alternative antibodies that it believes will retain efficacy against Omicron which it can squeeze into clinical trials if necessary. Lilly has said it is still testing its substance after external researchers said it was not as effective against the new variant.

Sotrovimab is authorized in about a dozen countries, including the United States, which has paid nearly $ 1 billion for hundreds of thousands of doses.

An experimental antibody therapy developed by Adagio Therapeutics Inc.

also seems to work well against the new variant, according to biotechnology. Like sotrovimab, Adagio’s treatment targets a point on the spike protein that is less likely to mutate. Adagio medicine is in the late stages of clinical trials.

Glaxo is already considering whether it can increase sotrovimab production in the event that it turns out to be the only authorized treatment that maintains efficacy against the new variant, Dr. Peppercorn said last week.

Researchers are also trying to find out if the existing vaccines will be less effective against the variant. Pfizer Inc.

with partner BioNTech SE,

and Modern Inc.,

which makes mRNA vaccines for Covid-19, is working on Omicron-specific versions of their shots, which they say may be ready to be sent in a few months if needed.

Antiviral drugs that have also been developed to prevent hospitalization, including pills from Merck & Co. with partner Ridgeback Therapeutics LP and from Pfizer, are believed to be less vulnerable to new varieties because they target a different part of the virus. None of them are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, although Merck’s drugs are likely to be available shortly after an expert panel of experts has approved the treatment.

Write to Denise Roland at

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