Pharmaceutical companies race to develop monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19

NIH to use monoclonal antibodies for COVID treatment
NIH to use monoclonal antibodies for COVID tr... 01:41

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the makers of the flu vaccine are planning to ship a record 200 million doses to the U.S. to prevent Americans from getting slammed by the flu next season. Now, the National Institutes of Health is recruiting patients for tests on two possible COVID treatments.

With COVID-19 patients continuing to overload hospitals, on Tuesday, Eli Lilly, in collaboration with the NIH, announced they're trying something new: a lab-engineered treatment called monoclonal antibodies to stop the virus from spreading in the body.

"Monoclonal antibodies sticks right to the part of this spike protein that represents the part that binds to the human cell and lets the virus get inside. So you cover that up and the virus has nowhere to go," said NIH director Francis Collins.

In contrast to the convalescent plasma taken from survivors' blood, monoclonal antibodies can be manufactured in large amounts in a lab.

In a similar effort, Regeneron is working on its own synthetic antibody treatment. Dr. Mezgebe Berhe of Baylor Scott and White Health is running the trial.

"If I treat you now, can I prevent the possibility of progression and hospital admission? Can I improve your recovery time? And can I also prevent transmission to other people?" Berhe said.

Meanwhile, Maryland-based Novavax says two studies of its experimental phase two trial vaccine are showing positive results. Fifty-six participants had antibodies and no side effects in one study, and the other showed the vaccine protected monkeys from COVID-19.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook