Eli Lilly’s Antibody Therapy for COVID-19 Paused in US and More COVID-19 News


Here’s a look at some of the top COVID-19-related stories for today.

U.S. Pauses Distribution of Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 Antibody Therapy

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paused the distribution of Eli Lilly and Company's dual antibody therapy, bemlanivimab and etesevimab, after it failed to demonstrated efficacy against the Brazilian (Gamma) and South African (Beta) COVID-19 variants. The treatment had previously shown it decreased the risk of hospitalization and death by 87% compared to placebo.

In an email to Reuters, Lilly said, “As variants continue to evolve and their patterns of transmission and prevalence shift, we will continue our work with governments and regulators worldwide to ensure our antibodies are available to appropriate patients.”

5 Pharma Companies to Collaborate on Molnupiravir Trial

Five pharmaceutical companies in India, Cipla, Dr Reddy, Emcure, Sun Pharma and Torrent Pharmaannounced plans to collaborate on a clinical trial of the oral anti-viral drug molnupiravir for mild COVID-19 in an outpatient setting in India. Between March and April, the five companies entered into a non-exclusive voluntary licensing deal with Merck Sharp Dohme (MSD)[Merck, in the U.S.], to manufacture and distribute molnupiravir to India and more than 100 Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs). 

They have since entered into a deal to jointly sponsor, supervise and monitor the trial in India. It is expected to run between June and September with about 1,200 patients. The drug is being developed by Merck (MSD) via a collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in a Phase III trial for non-hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19.

Mixed Vaccines After AstraZeneca-Oxford Shot Produces Better Immune Response

study, Com-COV, out of Oxford, UK, found that a mixed dosing schedule where a shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is given four weeks after an AstraZeneca-Oxford dose produces better immune responses than a second dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot. Matthew Snape, the Oxford professor leading the study, said the results provide flexibility to vaccine rollouts, but wasn’t large enough to recommend a broader change away from clinically approved schedules.

“It’s certainly encouraging that these antibody and T-cell responses look good with the mixed schedules,” Snape said. “But I think your default has to stay, unless there’s a very good reason otherwise, to what is proven to work.”

95% of COVID-19 Deaths in Wisconsin Since March Weren’t Vaccinated

Wisconsin health officials reported that 95% of the COVID-19 deaths in the state since March were people who had not been vaccinated or were not fully vaccinated. And since January 1, 2021, only 1% of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases were in people who were fully vaccinated.

“The science is clear: vaccines work in the real world. They save lives,” said Elizabeth Goodsitt, Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokeswoman said. “And if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected. All three vaccines have been tested and proven to be safe and effective.”

Australia Goes into Lockdown to Prevent Spread of Delta Variant

Australia had an excellent record in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to stringent lockdowns. However, it has been slow to roll out vaccines, with only 5% of the population fully vaccinated. And now they’re locking down again, particularly several larger cities, after an outbreak of the delta (India) variant. Most of the new cases are linked to a Sydney limousine driver who was unvaccinated and tested positive on June 16, who drove a foreign air crew from the airport while reportedly not wearing a mask.

Growing Concerns Over Effectiveness of Chinese COVID-19 Vaccines Against Delta Variant

Although Western countries generally rely upon the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccines, many Asian and South African countries depend upon Chinese vaccines. However, concerns about the Chinese vaccines’ ability to protect against the delta (India) variant are increasing. Much of this has to do with a lack of published efficacy studies based on large-scale trials or real-world use or lack of detail for those that are published. 

Liu Peicheng, a spokesman for one of the Chinese vaccine makers, Sinovac, told Reuters that preliminary data from blood samples from people vaccinated in Guangzhou city, demonstrated a three-fold decrease in neutralizing effect against the delta variant. But a booster should improve on that.

A Face Mask that Can Detect COVID-19 Infection

Engineers at Harvard University and MIT have developed a face mask that can diagnose COVID-19 within 90 minutes. The masks are embedded with disposable sensors that can be set into other face masks and could also be modified to diagnose other diseases. The technology is based on freeze-dried cellular sensors that the research group had developed for use in paper diagnostics for Ebola and Zika viruses. 

“We’ve demonstrated that we can freeze-dry a broad range of synthetic biology sensors to detect viral or bacterial nucleic acids, as well as toxic chemicals, including nerve toxins,” said James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Sciences (IMES) and Department of Biological Engineering. He is also senior author of the study.

Rigel Pharmaceuticals’ Fostamatinib Selected for NIH COVID-19 Trial

Rigel Pharmaceuticals reported that its novel oral spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) inhibitor, fostamatinib, had been chosen for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) ACTIV-4 (Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines) trial in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 9NHLBI) of the NIH and coordinated by Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), the trial is evaluating various treatments in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“Fostamatinib will be the fourth arm of our ACTIV-4 Host Tissue Trial,” said Sean P. Collins, ACTIV-4 Host Tissue Principal Investigator and professor of Emergency Medicine at VUMC. “The drugs tested on this platform offer an opportunity to better understand both the central pathways of disease progression and better ways to protect and heal the host tissues damaged by COVID-19.”

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