Antibody drug added to UK Recovery trial of COVID treatments

Convalescent plasma samples in vials are seen before being tested for COVID-19 antibodies at the Bloodworks Northwest Laboratory, U.S. (REUTERS)
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Updated 14 September 2020

Antibody drug added to UK Recovery trial of COVID treatments

  • The new drug is the first on the RECOVERY trials that is designed specifically to fight Covid-19

LONDON: The world’s largest randomised trial of potential medicines for COVID-19 is to add Regeneron’s experimental antiviral antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 to the drugs it is testing in patients hospitalized with the disease.
The UK RECOVERY trial, which has been testing a range of potential COVID-19 treatments since it began in April, will compare the effects of adding REGN-COV2 — a lab-manufactured monoclonal antibody — to standard care.
“This is the first drug actually designed for this disease,” said Martin Landray, a professor of medicine & epidemiology at Oxford University who is co-leading the trial.
“There are lots of good reasons for thinking this might be really quite a powerful treatment,” he told Reuters in an interview.
The addition of Regeneron’s drug to the RECOVERY trial comes amid growing hopes that monoclonal antibodies may emerge as effective ways to treat COVID-19.
Until now, the RECOVERY trial had mostly been studying whether existing drugs could be re-purposed to tackle the new disease, and it has already found answers on a number of them.
In June and September, trial results showed that widely used steroids such as dexamethasone and hydrocortisone were able to reduce death rates among severely-ill COVID-19 patients
Also in June, RECOVERY trial results showed that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, once touted by US President Donald Trump as a potential “game changer” in the pandemic, was of no benefit in treating COVID-19 patients.
Regeneron’s REGN-COV2 cocktail, which the company is already testing in late-stage clinical trials in people, combines one Regeneron-made antibody and a second antibody isolated from people who have recovered after being infected with COVID-19.
The combination is designed to bind to the spike protein used by the new coronavirus to gain access to human cells, limiting the virus’s ability to escape.
Regeneron developed the biological drug before linking up with Roche to expand its manufacturing capacity in hopes of meeting global demand, should the medicine prove effective. Regeneron would handle US sales, with Roche selling the medicine around the world.
Landray said his team had secured enough supply of the drug so that up to “several thousand” patients could be given it in the trial and compared with several thousand controls.
“Given that the second phase (of COVID-19 infections in the UK) seems to be coming now, it is a really good time to be starting this,” he said.
The United States already has a $450 million deal for the cocktail in place, under the terms of which Regeneron will sell it around 70,000 to 300,000 potential treatment doses or 420,000 to 1.3 million prevention doses of REGN-COV2. Data is due later this month, Regeneron has said.
Alongside Regeneron, Eli Lilly, working with biotech firm AbCellera, is seen as a leading contender in the antibody race. In August it started testing whether its antibody can prevent COVID-19 infections in nursing homes. A separate trial testing the compound on recently diagnosed COVID patients may yield initial data in September or shortly after.
GlaxoSmithKline and partner Vir Biotechnology also began testing an experimental antibody on newly diagnosed COVID-19 patients late last month.
AstraZeneca is for now testing its antibody-based cocktail on healthy volunteers for tolerability.


Shock after rare killing of British police officer

Updated 27 September 2020

Shock after rare killing of British police officer

  • The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply

LONDON: Police across Britain on Saturday paid silent tribute and flags were flown at half mast after a long-serving officer became the first to be shot dead in the line of duty in more than eight years.

Sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54, was shot by a 23-year-old man at Croydon Custody Center in south London at about 2:15 a.m (0115 GMT), and died in hospital.

The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, turned the gun on himself, and was said to be in critical but stable condition.

Ratana’s death is being treated as murder.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Ratana, who came to Britain from New Zealand and was known as Matt, was “senselessly killed.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, he joined the Met in 1991 after university and had nearly 30 years as a uniformed officer in the British capital.

He played for London Irish and the force rugby union team, before going into coaching at East Grinstead, near Croydon. He leaves a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

“As a colleague, he was big in stature and big-hearted, a friendly, capable police officer,” Dick said.

“A lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, and by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody.

“He was very well known locally and will be remembered so fondly in Croydon, as well as in the Met and the rugby world.”

Dick said security and police body camera footage would be examined closely as part of the investigation, after media reports suggested the suspect may not have been fully searched before entering the custody suite.

Many British police carry taser stun guns but are not routinely armed, although forces have tactical firearms units to respond quickly to incidents.

According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which sent investigators to the scene, no police firearms were fired.

The suspect was handcuffed and apparently opened fire in the custody suite with a revolver as officers prepared to search him, it added.

Deaths in service in Britain are rare and the shooting sent shockwaves throughout police forces across the country. 

Flags were lowered and officers stood in a minute’s silence in Ratana’s memory.

His death came as the British government is looking to introduce harsher sentences for attacks on emergency service workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to Ratana’s family, writing on Twitter that “we owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told parliament: “We ask our police officers to do an extraordinary job.

“The fact that one of them has fallen in the line of performing that duty is a tragedy for the entire nation.”

Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were the last British police officers to be shot dead in the line of duty, when they were ambushed in a gun and grenade attack in September 2012.

They were killed by drug dealer Dale Cregan while responding to a report of a burglary in Manchester, northwest England.

Since then, a further five officers have been killed on duty — four by vehicles while pursuing suspects and one, Keith Palmer, who was stabbed during a 2017 terror attack on parliament.

Ratana is the 17th officer from the Met to be killed by a firearm since the end of World War II, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honor.