What's the Deal with Monoclonal Antibodies?

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Drumming our fingers waiting for a COVID vaccine feels like waiting for Christmas - it feels soooo long away. Fortunately, research is underway on several alternative treatment therapies for COVID, including monoclonal antibodies. If you’re like me, you've heard the term but aren’t quite sure what they are or how they work.

I mistakenly believed that they were given to hospitalized patients with severe cases of COVID. Boy was I wrong - and I'm glad I was.

In a nutshell, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are human-made proteins made from living cells that latch onto other proteins that drive disease. Antibodies are produced naturally by your body and help the immune system recognize germs that cause diseases, such as bacteria and viruses, and mark them for destruction. Like your body’s own antibodies, monoclonal antibodies recognize specific targets.

Monoclonal antibodies were used in the treatment of Ebola and various cancers and autoimmune disorders. These safe therapies are now being studied for use in early diagnosis of COVID to prevent disease progression.

With potential vaccines still several months away, monoclonal antibody drugs are one option to fill the gap until vaccines are widely available. Ten pharmaceutical companies are in Phase III trials with promising versions of a drug that is either injected intravenously (not ideal) or with a short needle (excellent!). They work soon after someone is infected and is only feeling mildly ill to stop the virus before someone would require hospitalization.

Researchers are analyzing who would initially receive the drug, but it will likely first be given to nursing home residents and those who treat them, or to a household member who tested positive for the virus. They feel similar to Tamiflu - one person in your house gets the flu, everyone gets Tamiflu!

Researchers are predicting these drugs will potentially be available in October. You can bet I’m going to follow these studies closely. Stay tuned.