UPMC, University of Pittsburgh discover antibodies to help prevent, treat COVID-19
PITTSBURGH — Steven Shapiro, UPMC chief medical and scientific officer; John Mellors, UPMC and University of Pittsburgh chief of infectious diseases and his colleague Dimiter Dimitrov, Pitt’s director for antibody therapeutics, discussed the newly discovered human monoclonal antibodies that are able to prevent and treat COVID-19 in different ways in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“There is still much work to be done to make this an available drug,” Shapiro stated. “But it is exciting and highly promising.”
Mellors and Dimitrov described the antibody drug as something that can be injected or taken through inhalation while having the COVID-19 virus or not.
“We can give someone a dose of antibody that lasts from weeks to months and protects them from infection,” Mellors said. “Those who are at risk could get those antibodies…help restore the work force and get us back on track for economic recovery.”
The two professionals also described the antibodies as extremely “potent” despite its smaller size.
“It (the antibody) penetrates into parts of the body that a full size antibody cannot,” Mellors added.
He also added the antibody is made of all human material and not “foreign material” that could potentially be “rejected.”
“It should be able to have greater impact,” he continued.
In terms of how these antibodies differ from vaccinations, Mellors said that “we need both” the vaccine and the new antibody to stay on top of the ongoing pandemic.
“Not everyone responds the way we want with a vaccine,” he said. “A vaccine cannot treat (COVID) but an antibody can. It is about saving lives by preventing infection and treating it effectively.”
He also said that those who cannot receive vaccinations can get this antibody by the inhalation alternative.
Mellors, Dimitrov and Shapiro also stated that this process is still too early on to discuss the timeline and pricing of the antibody drug though human trials are expected to begin in early 2021 according to Mellors.
Mellors additionally stated that drug prices have been rapidly dropping and the goal is to make this antibody drug as accessible as possible.
Animal trials on rats and hamsters have been showing positive data, according to Dimitrov.
“Our antibodies can save lives,” Dimitrov said.
“We want to be armed and ready for the next outbreak so it won’t be a pandemic,” Mellors said. “We are working towards the goal of making these antibodies available for treatment and commercialization.”
“UPMC and Pitt will remain on the forefront of battling this pandemic,” Shapiro added.