According to pharmaceutical company Brii Biosciences, the first commercial batch of an in-house COVID-19 neutralizing antibody therapy was rolled out last week, adding a particularly useful weapon for immunocompromised people to the arsenal against the virus.
The latest data shows the therapy is effective against Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, the two most transmissible variants to date that threaten to become globally dominant, experts from Omicron said. health during an online press conference held on Friday.
According to Luo Yongqing, president of Brii Biosciences.
“So far, we have received inquiries from more than 20 provinces or cities,” he told the conference, adding that the company has stepped up preparations to expand manufacturing capacity.
The injectable therapy combines two neutralizing antibodies, called BRII-196 and BRII-198, which are obtained from recovered COVID-19 patients. A global clinical trial shows it can lead to an 80% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths, the company says.
The therapy received conditional approval from the National Medical Products Administration in December to treat mild and moderate COVID-19 patients at high risk of developing severe symptoms. Since March, a number of health care safety bureaus have added the therapy to medical reimbursement lists.
Luo said the price of the treatment is currently nearly 10,000 yuan ($1,493) per dose, which is lower than its purchase price in the United States. The price is also lower than that of a preventive COVID-19 antibody cocktail developed by US drugmaker AstraZeneca that was recently cleared for use in a medical tourism area in Hainan province.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic surfaced nearly three years ago, a number of vaccines and antiviral drugs have been successfully created to fight the disease, but antibody treatment can play a unique role in protecting people with weakened immune systems.
Yan Li, the company’s chief medical officer, said immunocompromised groups are not suitable for COVID-19 vaccination or cannot generate enough antibodies after vaccination.
“For them, receiving antibody injections can have an immediate effect,” he said.
Compared with small molecule antiviral drugs, the combination treatment can induce longer protection against the virus and remain potent enough to kill the virus three weeks after injection, said Zhang Linqi, a professor at the School of Medicine of the Tsinghua University which jointly developed the drug.
Lu Hongzhou, president of Third People’s Hospital in Shenzhen, also involved in the development of the therapy, said the latest results showed that the therapy exhibited very good inhibitory effects against BA.4 and BA.5.