Biotech company's chief scientific officer talks timeline for possible coronavirus treatments

Race to develop treatments for coronavirus
Race to develop treatments for coronavirus 02:37

With no proven treatment or vaccine for coronavirus, the scientific community has turned to a promising near-term solution with the use of antibody drugs. Regeneron is one of several biotech companies developing such an approach. Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. George Yancopoulos sat down with "CBS Evening News" host Norah O'Donnell to discuss the company's efforts to combat the pandemic.

Norah O'Donnell: Explain how an antibody drug works?

Basically, there are natural signals in the body that drive beneficial immune and inflammatory responses. The problem is, oftentimes these immune and inflammatory responses can become excessive, and they can create more damage than good. The hope is, by using this antibody that specifically blocks this one inflammatory pathway, it can actually benefit the inflammation that's seen in lungs that's causing people to have the difficulties breathing, and eventually succumbing to this tragic disease.

Kevzara treats rheumatoid arthritis. How could it help with COVID-19?

So, some clever scientist in China decided to try it and they reported that yes, it looked like it might be benefiting the inflammation that you get in the lungs in this disease and patients might be getting better. Those studies were uncontrolled anecdotal studies. We initiated a controlled study to see whether or not this really can make a difference for patients.

Let's turn now to the other coronavirus program and drug that you're working on. This cocktail, how would that work?

When you give a vaccine, you are giving something that induces what is known as an immune response. Unfortunately, it takes time to perfect the way to get the body to do it itself. Luckily, we and others have technologies that allow us to make these exact same antibodies outside of the body, and then purify them and give them back to people, and it's as if these people have been vaccinated

When could this therapeutic drug be available?

Well, the first potential treatment, we should be able to know as a scientific community within the next few weeks to a month or two, whether they are really working in a controlled fashion.

 And what about the antibody cocktail that could be a pre-vaccine?

By June we could be testing it and, once again, within a month or two, we might know, at least for certain patients, if it's safe and effective. So, by the end of the summer, we could be treating hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.