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GSK says antibody drug shown effective against omicron

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A COVID-19 antibody drug approved for emergency use in the U.S. is effective against the omicron variant, pharmaceutical company GSK announced in a statement on Thursday.

Sotrovimab, which is sold under the brand name Xevudy, “retains activity against key mutations” of omicron, GSK and partner company Vir Biotechnology said after a preliminary study showed the drug effectively targeted regions of the spike protein on the virus that are less likely to mutate.

The study shows the drug could also protect against future variants. Monoclonal antibody drugs work by binding to a protein from a virus to bolster the immune response and stop its spread in the body.

“Sotrovimab was deliberately designed with a mutating virus in mind,” said George Scangos, the CEO of Vir. “By targeting a highly conserved region of the spike protein that is less likely to mutate, we hoped to address both the current SARS-CoV-2 virus and future variants that we expected would be inevitable.”

The trial was conducted by testing specific, individual mutations found in omicron, GSK said. The company is continuing to study the drug’s effects and will release complete data by the end of the year.

The drug is distributed intravenously. It’s recommended for use within five days of COVID-19 symptoms but is not recommended if a patient is hospitalized or severely ill.

GSK and Vir join other companies that are pivoting to combat the omicron variant. Drug company Merck said its widely talked about antiviral drug molnupiravir would likely be effective against the omicron variant.

Hal Barron, the president of research and development at GSK, said the news, though preliminary, was a good start.

“Though early, these pre-clinical data support our long-held view on the potential for sotrovimab to maintain its activity as the virus continues to mutate,” Barron said.

Tags antibodies coroanvirus COVID treatment England GSK Omicron pandemic preventative drugs Vir biotechnology

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