Eli Lilly has started a phase 3 trial to evaluate whether its antibody LY-CoV555 stops the residents of nursing homes from developing COVID-19. Lilly has created customized mobile research units to run the clinical trial at nursing homes as the long-term care facilities lack experience running studies.
More than 40% of all U.S. deaths from COVID-19 involve nursing home residents and staff, according to a New York Times analysis, despite just 8% of cases occurring in such facilities. In 20 states, nursing homes account for more than half of all COVID-19 deaths. Eighty-two percent of COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire involve nursing homes.
The disproportionate burden borne by nursing homes suggests immunizing residents and workers at long-term care facilities against the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 virus could significantly reduce the death toll. However, the limited response of seniors to vaccines may make it hard to provide protection.
Antibodies provide an alternative, and in seniors potentially more effective way, to protect people against the coronavirus. Infusing anti-SARS-CoV-2 into people at risk of exposure to the virus could provide temporary protection against the pandemic pathogen.
Looking Beyond COVID-19’s Spike Protein for the Next Wave of Vaccines
Most ongoing vaccine development efforts against the novel coronavirus use the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 in the hopes of inducing neutralizing antibodies that can directly block the virus from infecting healthy cells. But there could be one major caveat to that approach: The antibody response to the virus, mediated by B cells of the immune system, appears to wane quickly.
That’s why a research team led by immuno-oncology biotech TScan Therapeutics turned to another key component of the immune response—T cells—in the hopes of informing the future development of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.
By studying memory CD8+ T cells from patients who recovered from COVID-19, the team pinpointed the dominant targets of T cells during the natural cellular response. The majority of the targets they found resided outside of the spike protein, according to data published on journal preprint site medRxiv.
Several companies have reported encouraging early-phase clinical data from their vaccine trials, reporting that the candidates induced neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 at levels comparable to or above those of recovered COVID-19 patients. However, it remains unclear whether these antibodies can protect people from an infection or how long the protection, if any, will last.