An antibody drug seen to treat COVID-19 has advanced to the next phase of trial. On Monday, U.S. drug maker Eli Lilly announced that the trial for its antibody drug had progressed to phase 3.

The phase 3 trial for Eli Lilly’s drug candidate, LY-CoV555, will establish whether the drug can prevent or treat COVID-19 in nursing homes in the U.S. The lab-made drug is designed to target the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2, the name of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and stop the virus from penetrating human cells.

Antibodies are proteins released by the human body to block foreign substances such as viruses from invading the cells. While the LY-CoV555 helps neutralize the new coronavirus, Eli Lilly explained that it is not a vaccine. However, the company hopes that the drug can not only help cure COVID-19 patients but also halt coronavirus infections, especially among the elderly.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on nursing home residents,” said Daniel Skyvronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer. “We’re working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable individuals,” he added.

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved any drug for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. On May 1, however, it authorized the use of antiviral drug remdesivir for emergency situations. Preliminary data showed that COVID-19 patients treated with remdesivir were able to recover faster than those who were not.

Last month, eight Sars-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies advanced to clinical trials. The frontrunner in the race to develop an antibody drug against COVID-19 is Regeneron, which is already in the phase 3 trial. This phase will determine whether a mixture of two neutralizing antibodies can halt infection in people who have had close contact with a COVID-19 patient.

On Monday, Regeneron released a non-peer reviewed paper showing that its antibody cocktail was able to “almost completely block establishment of virus infection” in animals. It was also able to minimize infection among animals that had been infected with a higher level of the new coronavirus.

coronavirus COVID-19 testing australia
COVID-19 testing staff are seen at a pop-up site at Keilor Community Hub on June 24, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. A man in his 80s died overnight in Victoria from coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 20. The death is the first COVID-19 fatality for Victoria in many weeks and also comes as 20 new coronavirus cases were confirmed today. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday warned of another possible lockdown should cases continue to rise, and has extended the state of emergency for at least four weeks to allow police the power to enforce social distancing rules. Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

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