Regeneron COVID-19 drug cocktail combats South Africa variant, Lilly's does not - study

FILE PHOTO: Eli Lilly logo is shown on one of their offices in San Diego
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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Laboratory testing found that Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's COVID-19 antibody cocktail can combat a coronavirus variant first found in South Africa, but a similar drug from Eli Lilly and Co is inactive against it, according to a study released on Tuesday.

In recent weeks, highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and elsewhere have raised alarm that current drugs and vaccines might be rendered less effective.

The latest data comes as Eli Lilly announced on Wednesday plans to test a new antibody targeting the South African variant and to study its current antibody in combination with another treatment by Vir Biotechnology Inc and its partner GlaxoSmithKline to combat new variants of the virus.

Researchers at Columbia University, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Regeneron found by testing lab samples that Lilly's bamlanivimab is inactive against the coronavirus strain first identified in South Africa, according to the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed but was published online on BioRxiv, a website for research.

The study also found that one of the two antibodies used by Regeneron for its cocktail was significantly less effective against the South African variant, but the antibody cocktail itself remained potent.

The paper said that when Lilly's bamlanivimab was used in combination with a treatment from ShanGLAghai Junshi Biosciences, its activity against the South African variant was still largely crippled.

(Reporting by Miyoung Kim in Singapore and Roxanne Liu in Beijing; additional reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles; Editing by Kim Coghill, Caroline Humer and Richard Chang)