Regeneron works on UK, South African COVID variants

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Regeneron’s synthetic antibody treatment remains effective against the British and South African variants of the novel coronavirus, the US biotechnology company announced on Wednesday.

The therapy used on ex-president Donald Trump has had emergency approval since November for people with mild to moderate symptoms and a high risk of becoming seriously ill.

REGEN-COV – featuring potent neutralising antibodies called imdevimab and casirivimab – remained effective against both variants, the company said in a statement, although casirivimab’s potency against the South African variant was “reduced”.

Scientists from New York’s Columbia University arrived at the same conclusion, and their study has been submitted for peer review.

The study’s “pre-publication”, however, presents more worrying results concerning another synthetic antibody, bamlanivimab: It is “inactive” against the South African variant, according to researchers.

This antibody is used in the treatment developed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which has also been approved for emergency use in the United States (US). Bamlanivimab will likely also be ineffective against the new Brazilian variant, since it presents mutations similar to the South African variant, scientists said.

Regeneron expects its antibody treatment will be effective against the Brazilian variant. Studies are underway to confirm this.

“These data show the continued ability of REGEN-COV to neutralise emerging strains, further validating our multi-antibody cocktail approach to infectious diseases,” said George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s president and chief scientific officer.