WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US government has awarded US$486 million (S$659 million) to AstraZeneca Plc to develop and secure supplies of up to 100,000 doses of Covid-19 antibody treatment, a similar class of drug that was used in treating President Donald Trump.
The agreement, under the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, is for developing a monoclonal antibody cocktail that can prevent Covid-19, especially in high-risk population like those over 80 years old, the US Department of Health and Human Services said.
The treatment has come under the spotlight after Mr Trump was treated with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' antibody drug last week. The president has also released a video on Twitter touting its benefits.
In a call earlier on Friday (Oct 9), a top US health official said the government was expecting to provide more than 1 million free doses of antibody treatments to Covid-19 patients, similar to the one that was administered to Mr Trump.
Regeneron and Eli Lilly have both applied to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorisations of their antibody treatments.
AstraZeneca said it was planning to supply up to 100,000 doses starting toward the end of 2020 and that the US government could acquire up to an additional one million doses in 2021 under a separate agreement.
Regeneron signed a US$450 million deal in July to sell Operation Warp Speed enough doses of its antibody treatment, REGN-COV2, to treat around 300,000 people.
Eli Lilly said on Friday it had not signed an agreement with Operation Warp Speed.
AstraZeneca plans to evaluate the treatment, AZD7442, which is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, in two studies.
One trial will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the experimental treatment to prevent infection for up to 12 months in about 5,000 participants, while the second will evaluate post-exposure preventative and pre-emptive treatment in roughly 1,100 participants.