Humabs Biomed is working to develop a therapy that will stop healthy individuals and those infected with the coronavirus from needing to be admitted to hospital. This might be achieved with a “very interesting antibody” that was identified six months ago by the Swiss specialist for antibody-based therapeutics in collaboration with U.S. colleagues, as Humabs CEO Filippo Riva explained in an interview with online TV channel ticinonews.
He went on to reveal that treatment of the first patients commenced last week within the context of a Phase II clinical trial, marking “a major success for us here in Bellinzona”. This was made possible through various collaborations, including with the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), the Ente Ospedaliero Cantonale, (cantonal hospital association; EOC), private clinics and the canton of Ticino. Humabs Biomed is a subsidiary of the Californian pharmaceutical group Vir Biotechnology.
Now, the aim is to have administered the new antibody to at least 1,300 patients overall by the start of 2021. “If everything goes well, our drug could be brought to market by the middle of next year,” said Riva. This drug can be used prophylactically, especially for people particularly at risk, but also when the first symptoms occur in individuals who have tested positive for the virus. In these cases, it should help prevent hospitalization. It might also play a role in the recovery of those seriously ill with COVID-19.
According to Riva, vaccination is of course also an important weapon against coronavirus. However, the first batches of vaccine that are produced will not be made available to the general public, but to high-risk individuals and particularly exposed staff. “I imagine it will take two years at least until someone like me can be immunized.”