Research Roundup: Moderna shot gets EUA, 2 monoclonal antibody treatments enter phase 3 trials, and first at-home, over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic gets EUA
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On Friday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, making it the second shot to receive a greenlight in the United States after Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate obtained EUA one week prior. The authorization follows a recommendation from an independent advisory panel to FDA, which met last Thursday to review evidence and subsequently voted to endorse the vaccine for use in people 18 years of age and older. Data released in late November indicated that the Moderna vaccine showed 94 percent efficacy in its phase 3 clinical trial, leading the company to seek regulatory clearances in the United States and Europe. The Moderna vaccine does not require the same ultra-cold temperature storage as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, allowing it to be delivered more widely in upcoming distribution efforts.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is sponsoring two phase 3 clinical trials investigating monoclonal antibodies as treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients with moderate illness. The trials are sub-studies of NIH’s Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV)-3 program, an adaptive trial designed to investigate new therapeutics as they become available. One of the treatments, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, is a fully human anti-SARS-CoV-2 investigational monoclonal antibody with potential to neutralize the virus and kill infected cells. The second treatment, developed by Brii Biosciences, is a combination of two neutralizing monoclonal antibodies. Both trials hope to show treatment efficacy in hospitalized patients, a subset of patients for which monoclonal antibody treatments have so far not shown an impact.
The FDA granted EUA last week to the first-of-its-kind rapid COVID-19 test that can be conducted fully at home without need for a prescription. The diagnostic, which was developed by Ellume, detects SARS-CoV-2 virus fragments from a nasal swab sample using an analyzer that connects with a smartphone app, providing results in as little as 20 minutes. While less accurate than typical molecular diagnostics, the test has shown a sensitivity of 96 percent and specificity of 100 percent and, in asymptomatic individuals, a sensitivity of 91 percent and specificity of 96 percent. Ellume intends to produce around 3 million tests by next month and 20 million by the second half of 2021 to be accessible in drug stores for over-the-counter use.