UCLH COVID-19 antibody trial doses first patient at new research centre

University College London Hospitals (UCLH) has dosed the first patient in a new COVID-19 antibody trial.

A new vaccine research centre has opened at UCLH, hosting two clinical trials – STORM CHASER and PROVENT – which will test a long-acting antibody combination treatment. The antibody in question, which was developed by AstraZeneca, is known as AZD7442.

As per the UCLH website, it’s hoped the antibody will offer ‘immediate and long-term protection’ to those who have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and, crucially, stop them from developing COVID-19. Both trials will compare the results to a placebo, with interest also around whether the treatment can not only reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 but also the severity of infection.

The latest publicised developments come from STORM CHASER, which has recruited around 10 participants for its trial so far. Key groups set to be included in the study are healthcare workers, students, residents from long-term care facilities and patients who have been potentially exposed to the CoV-2 virus.

Virologist Dr Catherine Houlihan, who leads the STORM CHASER study, told UCLH’s website that: “We know that this antibody combination can neutralise the virus, so we hope to find that giving this treatment via injection can lead to immediate protection against the development of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed – when it would be too late to offer a vaccine.”

PROVENT, the other study at the new vaccine research centre, is looking at the same antibody. But this team will focus on utilising it to find an alternative for people who might not respond to vaccination or who may be at higher risk of infection.

Dr Nicky Longley, who works as an infectious disease consultant at UCLH and leads its arm of PROVENT, said: “We will be recruiting people who are older or in long-term care, and who have conditions such as cancer and HIV which may affect the ability of their immune system to respond to a vaccine. We want to reassure anyone for whom a vaccine may not work that we can offer an alternative which is just as protective.”

As the UK announced new national ‘lockdown’ restrictions, this news is an interesting and potentially hopeful development which illustrates the broad range of ideas and innovations being trialled.

Find out more about the trials and other developments at UCLH by visiting uclh.nhs.uk.