Chinese scientists have launched a phase I clinical trial for the world's first neutralizing antibody treatment against COVID-19, which has showed great promise in arresting the growth of novel coronavirus in animal testing, but efficacy in humans remains to be seen.
The National Medical Products Administration approved the trial on Friday, according to an online statement by the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the drug's creator.
Details on the trial have not been posted on the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, a platform documenting applications and ongoing clinical trials in China.
In late May Chinese scientists from the institute published a study in the journal, Nature, detailing how a neutralizing monoclonal antibody, which was collected from recovered COVID-19 patients, could greatly decrease the viral load in the respiratory tract of infected rhesus monkeys.
The antibody, CB6, works by interfering with the binding process between novel coronavirus and the ACE2 receptor, thus blocking the virus from infecting cells, the journal said.
The institute said that it had begun relevant work in mid-January, and identified dozens of genes for creating the antibody from recovered patients. By late February, researchers had discovered two antibodies, CA1 and CB6, that have very potent viral neutralizing capability in vitro.
"It is an antibody drug with great clinical application prospects independently researched and developed by CAS," the institute said, adding it has filed a patent application and the drug could enter production quickly if its safety and potency in humans are established.
A virus neutralizing monoclonal antibody has been deemed by scientists as a promising candidate both for vaccine and treatment development. Researchers around the world are now finding more and more potent antibodies against COVID-19, but they have consistently warned that immunological responses in humans are extremely complex, and antibody vaccines and treatments still have a long way to go.