As of March 2, 2021
Working across the health care ecosystem, biopharmaceutical companies, academia, hospitals and the public sector are collaborating with urgent dedication to bring about new medicines and vaccines that can help combat COVID-19.
Here’s the latest on how biopharmaceutical researchers are working to advance vaccines and treatments, investigate the disease, and discover potential ways to fight back.[i]
Preventive vaccines help the body develop immunity to the coronavirus by imitating an infection, teaching the immune system how to identify and target the virus that can lead to COVID-19 without actually causing an infection.
On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the first vaccine for the prevention of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This vaccine was developed and subsequently authorized using novel mRNA technology and represents a historic milestone in vaccine science, given the unprecedented R&D timeline. A week later on December 18, 2020, a second mRNA vaccine for the novel coronavirus received an EUA as well. A third vaccine, which relies on more traditional vaccine technology, received an EUA on February 27, 2021.
Additional candidates under investigation have also demonstrated promising clinical results.
Potential treatments for COVID-19 generally fall into four categories: antibody therapies, antiviral therapies, immunoglobulins/convalescent plasma and therapeutics approved for other indications.
- Antibody therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies are designed to recognize coronavirus surface proteins, that could be used to both prevent and treat COVID-19.
- Antiviral therapies work by attacking the virus directly, often by disrupting the virus’s ability to replicate itself. One antiviral therapy has received FDA approval for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization.
- Immunoglobulins or convalescent plasma treatments are produced by harvesting blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. This plasma contains antibodies capable of fighting the virus, which are isolated and injected into patients currently fighting COVID-19 to boost their immune response. To date, the FDA has issued an EUA for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients to fight COVID-19.
- Therapeutics approved for other indications include medicines that are already approved to treat diseases like malaria and other infectious diseases. In some cases, doctors have found these treatments may be helpful in fighting COVID-19, and biopharmaceutical companies are working closely with regulatory authorities including FDA to ensure they are available if and when they are shown to be safe and effective for use in COVID patients.