4 things to know about possible antibody treatments for COVID-19

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

With no proven treatment for COVID-19, and a vaccine at least 12 months away, scientists and pharmaceutical companies are searching for a shorter-term solution to help treat patients. One promising option is the use of antibody drugs. Four U.S. biotech companies — Amgen, Genentech, Gilead, and Regeneron — are working on experimental drugs. CBS News spoke with Regeneron President and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. George Yancopoulos about the possible treatments for Tuesday's "CBS Evening News." Here are our top takeaways from that interview:

1. How do antibody drugs work?

"There are natural signals in the body that drive beneficial immune and inflammatory responses," Dr. Yancopoulos told us. "The problem is, oftentimes these immune and inflammatory responses can become excessive, and they can create more damage than good. And 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."

2. Regeneron's antibody drug Kevzara has seen some success

The Regeneron antibody drug Kevzara is being used in a controlled study to treat critical patients across the country. Dr. Yancopoulos explained that the drug was first tried in China for treating coronavirus, and they saw some success. "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," he said. "Those studies were uncontrolled anecdotal studies and we initiated a controlled study to see whether or not this really can make a difference for patients."

3. How does Regeneron's drug cocktail work?

Regeneron is currently working on a cocktail treatment to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is created and tested. "When you give a vaccine you are given something that induces what is known as an immune response," Dr. Yancopoulos said. "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."

4. The drug cocktail could be treating "millions" by the end of summer

Dr. Yancopoulos told us that the drug cocktail, which could essentially function as a pre-vaccine, could be available widely soon. "By June we could be testing it and ... 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," he said.