UT Southwestern moves to phase three of polyclonal antibody trials for COVID-19 treatment
Monoclonal antibodies have been an effective tool against early-stage COVID-19. Dallas-based UT Southwestern Medical Center’s now in phase three of a national trial testing polyclonal antibodies.
Dr. Mamta Jain, a professor in UT Southwestern’s Internal Medicine department, specializing in infectious diseases, told KERA’s Sam Baker it’s an effort to keep more people out of the hospital, and a possible tool against the omicron variant.
How do polyclonal antibodies differ from monoclonal?
Monoclonal - mono, meaning one - are targeted towards a specific area of the virus, the spike protein. By targeting areas of the spike protein, we can block potentially the virus from entering the cell and prevent further damage.
However, if there is a mutation in that area that the monoclonal antibody binds to, that monoclonal antibody wouldn't work.
Polyclonal - poly, meaning multiple antibodies - are targeted not to one area of the virus, but multiple areas.
For a stronger treatment or a more versatile treatment used against more than one variant?
A more versatile treatment that potentially could be used against variants to treat COVID.
We're still trying to understand if these polyclonal antibodies help in the early phases of infection. We've done the clinical trials with monoclonal antibodies, and those do help in the early phases of infection.
However, with the omicron variant - at least in the laboratory - it appears those cocktails are not going to be effective because where they bind, there are mutations there. And that's why there's now only one monoclonal antibody that appears to work against omicron, Sotrovimab, but there's also a short supply of that.
And so you could imagine that there may be scenarios where you have multiple different variants that are in circulation in that type of situation where you might not know what's circulating. It might be useful to have a therapy like a polyclonal where it might not matter what variant you have because the polyclonal could work against all the different variants. And that's what is being tested right now.
How polyclonal antibodies could hospitals
If we can give it to patients early in the course of illness, then the idea would be to prevent them from being ill enough that they have to go into the hospital. The idea is within the first five to seven days, the virus is replicating, and you want to try to give an antiviral early to try to stop that replication.
The trials now are in phase three.
When a trial is early on their first looking at safety and when it's determined that they found the right dose, then it goes into phase three to look at how efficacious is the product it's found to show that it's effective, then it'll go to the FDA to be approved.
People needed for the trials
Adults who are in the early phase of infection, so they have symptoms within the first five to seven days of onset. We are looking for people who are at high risk of being hospitalized:
- People who are older
- People who are immunocompromised
- People who are unvaccinated
We're trying to see if getting the treatment will prevent you from being hospitalized.
To take part in the polyclonal antibodies trial: Email email@example.com or call 214-645-9390.
Interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.
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