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Trials for AstraZeneca's highly-anticipated coronavirus 'antibody cocktail' are starting in the UK – and it could prevent the virus from developing for up to a year.
The treatment is designed for those whose weakened immune systems mean they cannot be vaccinated, but an 'antibody cocktail' could protect against Covid-19 infection for up to a year.
A participant in Manchester will be the first in the world to take the pharmaceutical company's treatment which will be trialled on 1,000 volunteers from nine sites in the UK.
Another 4,000 participants will come from Europe and the United States.
Unlike a vaccine, the drug aims to introduces antibodies instead of kick-starting the body's immune system to make them.
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Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development at AstraZeneca, said: "There is going to be a significant number of people – even in a world where vaccines are highly effective – who will not respond to vaccines, or in fact will not take vaccines.
"So having monoclonal antibodies as potential therapeutics is also important."
The UK Government has an in-principle agreement to secure access to one million doses of the antibody combination, dubbed AZD7442, if it is successful in the crucial phase three trials.
Sir Mene added: "We need people to sign up to this (trial), particularly those vulnerable people over 60 who are immuno-suppressed, and may be at higher risk of developing severe disease."
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AstraZeneca will publish the initial results from the trial in the first half of 2021 but it is expected to last for 12 months.
Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK's Vaccine Taskforce, said: "This is part of the portfolio to protect the whole UK.
"So, obviously, vaccines work in people who have a functional immune system.
"(But) if you are immuno-suppressed and you are going through bone marrow transplants, or indications or treatments that actually reduce your ability to mount an immune response, then this is basically the only current way of providing that short-term passive immunity.
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"So we are absolutely looking to protect those people who are immuno-suppressed or those people who need immediate protection, because you will remember that vaccines typically take about six weeks to work."
She said the NHS Vaccine Research Registry – a list of 340,000 volunteers willing to go into clinical trials – will provide some patients for the trial.
The two antibodies have been made with a life-extension technology to make them effective for a longer period of time.
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