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AstraZeneca seeks US authorisation of drug to prevent Covid-19

The antibody therapy, AZD7442, can protect people who lack a strong enough immune response to vaccines

WASHINGTON : AstraZeneca has requested emergency use authorisation from US regulators for its new treatment to prevent Covid-19 for people who respond poorly to vaccines because of a weakened immune system.

In a statement yesterday, the drugmaker said it included data in its filing with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from a late-stage trial that shows the drug reduced the risk of people developing any symptoms by 77 per cent.

The antibody therapy called AZD7442 could protect people who do not have a strong enough immune response to Covid-19 vaccines or to supplement a vaccination course for those, such as military personnel, who need to booster their protection further, AstraZeneca has said.

While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, AZD7442 contains lab-made antibodies designed to linger in the body for months to contain the virus in case of an infection.

A US authorisation for AZD7442 - based on two antibodies discovered by Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in the United States - could be a major win for AstraZeneca, whose widely used Covid-19 vaccine has yet to be approved by the US authorities.

Talks regarding supply agreements for AZD7442 are ongoing with the US and other governments, AstraZeneca said.

Covid-19 therapies based on the same class of monoclonal antibodies are being developed by rivals Regeneron, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline with partner Vir, competing for a role in Covid-19 treatment and prevention.

But AstraZeneca's filing has cemented its lead in prevention.

That contrasts with delays in AstraZeneca's quest for approval for its vaccine Vaxzevria in the US, where the majority of those willing to get immunised received shots from the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

Trial results on the AZD7442 therapy, first published in August, were taken three months after injection but the company hopes it can tout the shot as a year-long shield as trial investigators will follow up with participants as far out as 15 months.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson said yesterday it had submitted data to FDA for emergency use authorisation of a booster shot of its vaccine in people aged 18 years and older.

It said its submission includes data from a late-stage study that found a booster of its vaccine given 56 days after the primary dose provided 94 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid-19 in the US and 100 per cent protection against severe disease, at least 14 days after the booster shot. - REUTERS

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