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Eli Lilly, Regeneron’s COVID-19 treatments may be weaker against South Africa variant-study

PUBLISHED: Wed, 27 Jan 2021 11:00:01 GMT

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SINGAPORE, Jan 27 (Reuters) – COVID-19 antibody drugs developed by Eli Lilly and Co and Regeneron may be weaker against a new coronavirus variant found in South Africa, according to a study released on Tuesday based on laboratory tests.

Scientists have said new variants found in South Africa and Britain seem highly transmissible, raising concern that current drugs and vaccines might be rendered less effective.

The latest study comes as Eli Lily said on Tuesday it is moving a new antibody therapy to clinical trials targeting the South African variant.

The study, which was done outside human bodies using a pseudovirus containing mutations found in the two variants to test antibody treatments, showed the South Africa variant appeared to affect a broader range of antibodies than the U.K. variant and was more worrisome . A pseudovirus mimics live coronavirus and can be handled in labs at lower biosafety levels.

An antibody treatment developed by Lilly saw its neutralising effect severely diminished against the pseudovirus mimicking South African variant, according to the research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed but was published online on BioRxiv, a website for research.

When used in combination with a treatment from Shanghai Junshi Biosciences, its activity against the pseudovirus was still largely crippled, researchers from Columbia University, Vaccine Research Center, Regeneron and others said in the paper released.

But a cocktail of antibody treatments from Regeneron remained potent, although one of the two antibodies showed impaired activity.

The study said its findings suggest that antibody treatment may need to be modified in places where the South Africa variant is prevalent. (Reporting by Miyoung Kim in Singapore and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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