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GSK's Covid antibody treatment works on Omicron mutations, finds study

A medical technician draws blood from a doctor for a Covid-19 antibody test. (Bloomberg)Premium
A medical technician draws blood from a doctor for a Covid-19 antibody test. (Bloomberg)

  • The drugmaker in a statement said the tests done in-vitro against a pseudo-virus that recreates a synthesized version of omicron showed that sotrovimab, Glaxo’s antibody treatment, stands up to all mutations in the spike protein of the omicron variant and not just the key mutations

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Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Plc said its research shows its antibody treatment against Covid-19 is effective against the full combination of mutations in the new strain omicron.

The drugmaker in a statement said the tests done in-vitro against a pseudo-virus that recreates a synthesized version of omicron showed that sotrovimab, Glaxo’s antibody treatment, stands up to all mutations in the spike protein of the omicron variant and not just the key mutations. The tests included all 37 mutations identified to-date in the spike protein. 

This come amid uncertainty about whether the new variant omicron erodes the defenses of existing medicines and Covid-19 vaccines -- and by how much. Its many mutations, particularly on the spike protein that’s the target of most treatments, have sparked concern globally and spooked financial markets. 

Given the less than three-fold drop in neutralization during tests, “we are confident that sotrovimab will continue to provide significant benefit for the early treatment of patients hoping to avoid the most severe consequences of Covid-19," said George Scangos, Chief Executive Officer of Vir Biotechnology Inc., the drug’s co-developer. 

Sotrovimab reduced the risk of hospitalization and death in people with mild to moderate Covid by 79% in trials. The drug won clearance from U.K. regulators this month. 

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

“The 3-fold reduction in sotrovimab’s ability to neutralize omicron in analysis conducted by GlaxoSmithKline’s partner Vir Biotechnology should still mean a substantial level of efficacy vs. the variant -- though we have yet to see the details -- especially given the potential to dose at higher levels if needed. We continue to expect that the drop in activity for sotrovimab -- and that of AstraZeneca’s AZD7442 -- will be less severe than that of Eli Lilly-AbCellera and Roche-Regeneron’s antibodies. Glaxo’s 750,000 doses in committed contracts with various governments could equate to $1.5 billion of sales."

-John Murphy, BI pharmaceuticals analyst

Glaxo said last week the drug was effective against key mutations in omicron but the more recent tests provide more certainty it could hold up against the variant.

The injected antibodies are just one tool in the arsenal of Covid treatments, but they could be key to immune-suppressed people who don’t mount an adequate response to vaccines and help lessen the effects of the virus in those more susceptible to severe disease.

The new variant of coronavirus was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 25. As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.

On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'. The WHO has classified Omicron as a 'variant of concern'.

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