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5 things to know about the antibody cocktail President Trump received to treat his coronavirus

Workers at a Regeneron facility in Rensselaer, N.Y.
Workers at a Regeneron facility in Rensselaer, N.Y.John Halpern/Regeneron/Handout

President Trump received an experimental antibody cocktail last week as part of his treatment for the coronavirus. Here, compiled from Globe wire services and major media reports, is a brief rundown of what you need to know:

What’s the latest?

President Trump received the cocktail Friday as part of his treatment after he came down with coronavirus. And he has praised it as a “cure” and a “gift from heaven.” Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is now seeking emergency use authorization to allow more people to use it. Eli Lilly & Co., which has its own antibody cocktail, is also seeking emergency use authorization.

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What’s in the cocktail?

The treatment is a cocktail in the sense that it contains a mix of two different antibodies. The laboratory-made antibodies are designed to attach to the spike protein that helps SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, invade healthy cells.

Is it effective?

Experts say that one person’s experience doesn’t prove the drug works and more study is needed. It’s not clear if the drug helped Trump, whether it did so in addition to all the other treatments he received, or whether he would have recovered on his own. Clinical trials are underway. Trump, who has known the chief executive of Regeneron casually for years, received the treatment just days after Regeneron announced preliminary results from one trial involving 275 coronavirus patients. That trial suggested that the drug may help treat patients outside the hospital by reducing virus levels and symptoms.

Are there high hopes for it?

Yes. While Trump’s involvement has muddied the waters, the treatment is considered promising. Monoclonal antibodies are “a real best chance of being a game changer,” Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told The Washington Post. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has referred to the medicines as a bridge to a vaccine. A lot of smart people who understand immunology and virology think antibodies will work,” Robert Nelsen, an investor at ARCH Venture Partners who is invested in Vir Biotechnology, which is working on its own antibody treatment, told STAT. At least 50 companies and academic teams are racing to develop treatments. And the US government has placed a big bet on Regeneron, awarding the company more $500 million to develop and manufacture its product before the clinical trials have concluded.

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What’s the catch?

If the treatment is proven to work, one looming problem is supply. Monoclonal antibodies are difficult and expensive to manufacture. “The fundamental problem with monoclonal antibodies is there’s not enough worldwide capacity to produce enough of them to have a real impact on the disease,” Ezekiel Emanuel, a health policy expert who is advising the campaign of Joe Biden, told the Post. “Yes, they might be great, but for a small number of patients.”

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.



Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.