A clinical trial assessing Eli Lilly’s experimental antibody treatment reduced the rate of hospitalization in COVID-19 patients, the pharmaceutical company's CEO David Ricks told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo on Wednesday.
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“Today we announced the first proof of concept for a new approach designed to beat COVID,” he added. According to a press release, the results came during the study's middle stage.
Ricks pointed out that Eli Lilly’s “antibody in this study not only lowered viral load in patients,” improved symptoms and “reduced hospitalization risk by 72%.”
Ricks acknowledged, however, that “it is a smaller study” and “we need to replicate these findings.”
“This study was done in what we call ‘ambulatory patients,’ so people who are newly diagnosed who have risk and those with high-risk factors improved as well,” he said.
Ricks went on to say, “We’re, of course, encouraged by this,” adding that Eli Lilly “have many studies ongoing with this drug.”
Eli Lilly said in June that it began the world’s first human trial of a potential antibody treatment for the novel coronavirus.
The Indianapolis-based company said its study was designed to determine the treatment’s effectiveness on patients with COVID-19. The experimental drug is derived from blood samples taken from patients who recovered from the virus.
The Phase 2 study evaluated LY-CoV555, a SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody, for the treatment of symptomatic COVID-19 in an outpatient setting, according to a news release. Ricks told host Maria Bartiromo that about 400 patients volunteered to participate in the study.
“These patients we didn’t know if they were mild, severe, or moderate yet,” Ricks said. “We entered them into the study as soon as they received a positive diagnosis so it’s really an all-comers study in that respect.”
“And even with that all-comer population, we saw this significant reduction in hospitalization,” he continued.
According to the pharmaceutical company, the rate of hospitalization and emergency room visits was 1.7% for patients taking the drug, compared to 6% for patients taking a placebo.
"The results reinforce our conviction that neutralizing antibodies can help in the fight against COVID-19," Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said.
“We’ve had hundreds of people at Lilly working literally around clock since late February to get to this moment today,” Ricks told Bartiromo on Wednesday.
As of Wednesday morning, the virus had killed more than 195,960 individuals in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. During the outbreak’s peak, the U.S. had roughly 60,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at one time.
“Yesterday 50,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19, that’s a huge number and probably two or 3,000 of those in about a week’s time will progress to hospitalization where the risks go up and the health burden on our system increases,” Ricks added. “So the hope with this type of setting would be to use an antibody if you’re newly diagnosed, particularly with high-risk factors, to avoid progressing to hospitalization.”
Ricks also pointed out on Wednesday that “as it relates to regulators and NIH [The National Institutes of Health] and other collaborators within the government, it’s been a great collaboration from the beginning.”
“That’s one part of the COVID response that’s really working,” he continued.
Ricks also noted that Food and Drug Administration has been “making themselves available on a moment’s notice.”
“They’re doing things in record time right along with industry,” Ricks said, adding that “not only do we have collaboration around the industry that’s unprecedented, but we also have speed.”
“We started this project in early March,” he continued. “Today we’re announcing first-in-human results, normally that process might take five to seven years, we just did it in about seven months and that’s with the help of the regulators, but also the incredible work of our scientists here at Lilly.”
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Lilly's stock opened higher on the news at $151 compared to $150 at the previous close. The stock is up 14.2% so far this year.
FOX Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.