Patients have been given the first dose of a potential antibody treatment designed to fight coronavirus.

Scientists developed the antibody in just three months after identifying it from blood taken from one of the first American patients to recover from Covid-19.

The immune system produces antibodies to fight off foreign invaders when it detects infection.

This medicine, referred to as LY-CoV555, emerged from the collaboration between Lilly and AbCellera to create antibody therapies for the prevention and treatment of coronavirus.

Researchers say it is the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

The first patients in the study were given the medication at major medical centres in the US including NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

The placebo-controlled study will assess safety and tolerability in patients hospitalised with with the disease, and results are expected by the end of June.

A single dose of the medicine is administered via IV to up to 32 participants.

Mark Mulligan, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology and director of the Vaccine Center at NYU Langone Health, said: “We are committed to working with our industry partners to generate scientific evidence to meet the urgent need for treatments that reduce the severity of Covid-19 disease.

He added: “Antibody treatments like the one being studied here hold promise to be effective medical countermeasures against this deadly infection.

Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said: “Antibody therapies such as LY-CoV555 may have potential for both prevention and treatment of Covid-19 and may be particularly important for groups hardest hit by the disease such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

If the Phase 1 results show the antibody can be safely administered, researchers will move on to start studying LY-CoV555 in non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

Eli Lilly and Company also plans to study the drug in a preventative setting, focusing on vulnerable patient populations who historically are not optimal candidates for vaccines.

AbCellera and the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) identified the antibody.

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