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Lilly touts first trial worldwide for COVID-19 treatment

Researchers believe it could give new options to those hardest hit by the virus.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. is touting the world's first clinical trial for an antibody treatment to fight Covid-19.

In fact, sick patients are already getting it. And researchers believe it could give new options to those hardest hit by the virus.

Lilly calls the antibody treatment LY COV 555.

It's designed to block and prevent the virus from attaching and entering human cells, basically neutralizing COVID-19. And now for the first time patients in hospitals are getting dosed.

"It's an historical day I think in the fight against COVID-19," said Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer. "It's the first drug that's custom made to fight COVID-19."

It all started from one unidentified patient who contracted the virus and successfully fought it off.

A Canadian Bio-tech company called AbCellera obtained samples of that patient's blood. Over the last three months, Lilly examined millions of cells for COVID-19 antibodies.

"We sorted through hundreds and hundreds of those antibodies. We found one that was better than all of the rest. We were lucky. This first individual actually had, what is still so far the best antibody we could find, said Skovronsky.

He says the antibody now identified as 555 was engineered in the lab. It is not a vaccine but is considered "passive immunization."

"A vaccine actually has your own body making antibodies. We're giving you an antibody we manufactured in a factory," said Skovronsky explaining the difference between the two.

It means those who could not otherwise fight off the virus on their own might have a new option.

"Older individuals, people with compromised immune systems or chronic diseases, so for them this could be a good option. We'll test it in populations like that," said Skovronsky. "We'll give a single relatively large dose by IV infusion as quickly as possible after a person is infected, and that should be enough medicine in their body, if it's going to work," he added.

Results from the first phase of the trial are expected by the end of June. If the drug proves to be safe and tolerable for hospitalized patients, Lilly will begin a trial with more vulnerable populations.

Already, the drug is being manufactured, as Lilly works with the FDA.