Coronavirus immunotherapy could arrive by early summer. Is ‘record time’ fast enough?

when to stop treatment

Blood-plasma-based cures aren’t just the stuff of movies. There’s plenty of science to back the idea that blood products from survivors of viral diseases — containing antibodies primed against the virus — can jump-start an immune response in new patients.

In confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, drug makers instead are racing to produce high-tech derivatives in the form of monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies engineered to home in on pieces of the coronavirus. Scientists view them as likely to be both safer and more targeted, but they have yet to provide a Hollywood ending to any outbreak.

It takes time to engineer and purify these antibodies — and past epidemics have often waned before the drugs were ready. They also present myriad logistical hurdles: They have to be kept cold, for instance, and must be infused into patients rather than swallowed. And they’re expensive.

Related article:  Viewpoint: What was right and what was wrong with the CRISPR patent decision

Now two companies say they hope to have treatments for Covid-19 ready in record time.

Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical says its unit devoted to plasma-derived therapies could have a product ready for quick approval to fight the coronavirus. New York-based biotech Regeneron has said it can be ready to test hundreds of potential antibodies in Covid-19 patients by early summer.

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