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AstraZeneca Kicks Off Covid-19 Antibody Trials

AstraZeneca has begun testing an antibody-based cocktail for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Moderna and Novavax are also moving forward with their respective vaccines.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report, which has partnered with the University of Oxford in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, has begun testing an antibody-based cocktail for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

The company announced Tuesday the launch of the phase 1 study to evaluate the effectiveness of AZD7442, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that it hopes could lead to both a preventative treatment for Covid-19 and a medicinal treatment for those who have already contracted it.

“This combination of antibodies, coupled to our proprietary half-life extension technology, has the potential to improve both the effectiveness and durability of use in addition to reducing the likelihood of viral resistance,” executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s biopharmaceuticals R&D, Mene Pangalos, said in a statement.

Called “almost a sure bet” in treating and preventing Covid-19 by infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, mAbs mimic natural antibodies generated in the body to fight off infection, and can be synthesized in a lab to treat diseases in patients.

AstraZeneca’s move comes as companies globally race forward to find a cure for the coronavirus, which to date has infected 23.7 million people and killed nearly 814,000 globally, according to the latest tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A flurry of announcements from other biotech and pharmaceutical companies added to expectations of a viable antidote and treatment for the pathogen sooner than later, as well as better methods for testing if people have it in the first place.

On the testing front, Qiagen NV  (QGEN) - Get QIAGEN NV Report said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had granted an Emergency Use Authorization to its digital test for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

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The company said its "Access Anti-SARS-CoV-2 is an easy-to-use 10-minute test on a portable device that provides highly accurate results on Total Ig antibodies."

On the vaccine side, Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Novavax, Inc. Report said it has begun enrollment for expanded phase 2 trials of its own Covid-19 vaccine candidate, with interim data expected in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Meantime, Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report announced separately that it has concluded advanced talks with the European Union to supply 80 million doses of its own Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Mrna-1273, which is currently in its final stage trial.

This past Sunday, the FDA issued an "emergency use authorization" for convalescent plasma as a treatment of Covid-19 in hospitalized patients, raising concerns about the FDA's approach to vetting and overseeing various coronavirus treatment efforts. 

Several companies are working on products using the technology or that are related to the technology, including Japanese drugmaker Takeda (TAK) - Get Report, Emergent BioSolutions (EBS) - Get Report and Regeneron (REGN) - Get Report.

Some 30 Covid-19 vaccine candidates are currently in various forms of study and trials, according to the World Health Organization. 

Shares of AstraZeneca were up 0.43% at $57.02 in trading in New York on Tuesday.