"Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2" by Felipeesquivel20 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Antibody therapies could be a bridge to a coronavirus vaccine — but will the world benefit?

Aug 12, 2020

By Heidi Ledford

As the race to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 rages on, some researchers are focused on a short-term way to treat people with the disease: monoclonal antibodies. Rather than wait for vaccines to coax the body to make its own antibodies, these scientists want to inject designer versions of these molecules to directly disable the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. But mass-produced antibodies, routinely used to treat diseases such as cancer, are complex to manufacture and come with a hefty price tag. That risks placing them beyond the reach of poor countries.

That warning comes from a report released on 10 August by two leading public-health charities: the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit research organization in New York City, and Wellcome, a research funder in London. It calls for boosting the global availability of therapeutic antibodies against COVID-19 and other diseases by developing regulatory pathways, business models and technologies to lower the cost of the pricey medicine.

It is a tall order, acknowledges Mark Feinberg, president of IAVI. “But COVID-19 really forces the issue in a major way,” he says. “The pandemic demands that this dialogue take place, and that solutions for this challenge be created.”

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