San Diego’s Sorrento Therapeutics says antibody shows ability to block virus

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SAN DIEGO – A local company says it is making significant progress in developing an antibody treatment to fight COVID-19.

San Diego-based Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. announced Friday that an antibody it is developing has shown an ability to block coronavirus infection of healthy cells in the laboratory. It is one of about a dozen antibody candidates the company says has demonstrated the ability to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection of human cells.

“If this antibody does what we hope it does — and we think it does — this would potentially end the epidemic the second we get approved,” said Dr. Mark Brunswick, senior vice president at Sorrento.

Company CEO Dr. Henry Ji lauded the effectiveness observed so far in trials.

“We discovered a neutralizing antibody — very potent,” Ji said. “That means a very low quantity of it will be able to wrap around the virus, block them from infecting the normal cells.”

Sorrento Therapeutics said STI-1499 “completely neutralized the virus infectivity at a very low antibody dose, making it a prime candidate for further testing and development.” The announcement came one week after the company said it was collaborating with Mount Sinai Health System to develop an “antibody cocktail” called COVI-SHIELD to potentially treat COVID-19.

Sorrento Therapeutics said STI-1499 likely would be the first antibody in COVI-SHIELD, though it is also expected to be developed as a stand-alone therapy.

Ji said the treatment would keep the virus from replicating and essentially starve it out. With such promising results thus far, the next step includes completing animal trials before moving into treating COVID-19 patients — something they say could possibly begin as early as July.

But first, the FDA has to approve it, Brunswick said.

“We will do everything we can to help the FDA review our data and assure themselves, and therefore the American public, that these are safe and effective drugs,”he said.

If approved, the treatment possibly could hit the market more than a year before a vaccine is ready.

“We are very excited and hope to get this into patients very, very soon,” Brunswick said.

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