Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug
The arm jab takes effect immediately and could protect people against transmission of the coronavirus for six months to a year. (Reuters/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 21 November 2020

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug

Trials begin for new anti-COVID ‘cocktail’ drug
  • Jab could be used to protect those who cannot be given vaccines, scientists say

LONDON: An alternative anti-coronavirus jab aimed at protecting those who cannot receive vaccines will enter major trials this weekend.

The drug is made by AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company that worked with Oxford University in the UK to develop a general vaccine.

The alternative injection was developed using antibodies produced by a single coronavirus patient in the US.

The arm jab takes effect immediately and could protect people against transmission for six months to a year.

If trials prove successful, it could be used to safeguard those who cannot be administered vaccines because of their health.

An initial 1,000 people will be administered the drug in the UK this weekend, while 4,000 others from around the world will take part in the trials soon after. The trials will use a placebo test system to determine the usefulness of the drug.

Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said the antibody drug would be “almost like a passive vaccination.”

He added: “Now that’s important because obviously there’s going to be a significant number of people, even in a world where vaccines are highly effective, that will not respond to vaccines, or in fact will not take vaccines, and so having monoclonal antibodies as potential therapeutics I think is also important.”

Kate Bingham, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said hundreds of thousands of people might not benefit from a vaccine because they do not have a working immune system.

“It’s crucial that we leave no one behind as we move closer to finding both a vaccine and developing more treatments for COVID-19,” she added.

“We particularly need to ensure those who cannot be given a vaccine, such as people who are immuno-compromised, have alternatives available that will help protect them.”

But the jab is expensive and difficult to produce on a large scale, so it will likely be targeted at specific at-risk groups in countries worldwide.

AstraZeneca said the jab can also protect care-home residents in case of a small-scale coronavirus outbreak.

The preventative efficacy of the drug will be tested in a second trial on individuals in the US and the UK.


EU weighs options as Turkey stand-off grinds on

Updated 04 December 2020

EU weighs options as Turkey stand-off grinds on

EU weighs options as Turkey stand-off grinds on
  • Next week’s EU summit will be held in Brussels with leaders meeting face-to-face
  • Turkey and Greece countries are NATO members and the alliance has set up a “de-confliction mechanism”

BRUSSELS: European Council chief Charles Michel said Friday that Turkey has not de-escalated its stand-off with Greece and warned EU members now need to consider tougher options.
“I think that the cat and mouse game needs to end,” Michel said, referring to Turkey’s repeated incursions into Greek waters with gas exploration vessels.
“We will have a debate at the European summit on December 10 and we are ready to use the means at our disposal,” he added.
Next week’s EU summit will be held in Brussels with leaders meeting face-to-face after videoconferences were held as a coronavirus prevention measure.
One possibility, backed by some members, would be economic sanctions, but many states are not convinced.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a conference in Italy “the EU Council will have to take the decision that only the EU can take, because the sanctions regime, it’s a matter for the member states.”
“There are not very many positive signals that came from Turkey during these months — in Cyprus and on the drilling, the talks between Greece and Turkey have not been developing,” he said.
Turkey has been challenging Greece over maritime territory in the Eastern Mediterranean, repeatedly sending a gas exploration vessel into Greek waters.
Both countries are NATO members and the alliance has set up a “de-confliction mechanism” to help avoid accidental military clashes.
But a German-led diplomatic approach to Ankara has made little progress in resolving the underlying issues, and some EU members — notably France and Greece itself — are pushing for stronger action.
Other EU capitals are more cautious, some fearing an escalating stand-off could see Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government once again allow a wave of refugees to head for EU borders.
Michel, who will host the summit, expressed Europe’s frustration.
“In October, after a very dense and strategic high level exchange, we defined a very positive offer to Turkey, we extended our hands,” he told a news conference to mark his first year in office.
“But the condition to move in that area is that Turkey needs to stop unilateral provocations, hostile statements, and the non-respect of international principles and rules-based society.
“Well, since October, things have not been very positive,” Michel noted.
“Since that time, we’ve seen that there have been unilateral acts that have taken place, a hostile rhetoric has been expressed.”
Backed by Turkish navy frigates, the research vessel the Oruc Reis was first deployed in August and again in October to the waters off Kastellorizo island, in defiance of EU and US calls to stop.
It returned to port again in October, but may go back to the disputed zone while Ankara says that, with its long Mediterranean coastline, its claim to sovereign waters in the region is stronger than Greece’s, which is based on its ownership of tiny Kastellorizo.