IG Biotech Group, a coalition of biotech and pharmaceutical experts, aims to bring to the Philippines an antibody-based prevention and treatment for COVID-19 by the third quarter of 2020.

The proposed antibody-based treatment is meant to alleviate active infections and provide short-term immunity or prophylaxis, against the virus, while the commercial production of COVID-19 vaccine is still far at hand.

IG Biotech is a partnership between IP Biotech, an importer, wholesaler, and retail administrator of vaccines in the Philippines in the last 15 years, and local biotech firm Secura, which has a team of experts in pandemic, infectious diseases and vaccine development.

The group is supported by VINS Bioproducts, an Indian biopharmaceutical company that produces antisera, antitoxins, and immunoglobulin-based products.

IP Biotech chair Enrique Gonzalez said in a press statement on Sunday that the group was “working around the clock” to develop the COVID-19 treatment and was on track to conduct clinical trials by mid-year.

Subject to the results of the clinical studies and upcoming regulatory approvals, IG Biotech and partners hope to offer in the Philippines – where the infection rate has yet to peak and is expected to rise well above current numbers over the next months – this treatment by the third quarter of 2020.

“We have focused on an anti-body treatment due to the shorter timeline for development, and the high degree of safety and predictability during trials. We are merely taking nature’s (human immune system) answer to COVID and distilling it into a vial form which can be administered safely and conveniently,” Gonzales explained.

Noel Miranda – former ASEAN Regional Coordinator for Multi-sectoral Pandemic Preparedness and Response and member of the scientific team of IG Biotech – said the treatment was intended to provide individuals, especially healthcare workers, frontliners, and other high-risk individuals, a vital 30-day window of passive immunity to the virus. The treatment also intends to prevent symptoms from worsening in critical cases.

“With the increasing number of infected frontline healthcare personnel, it is of the highest priority to provide proven protection and peace of mind to frontline personnel and their families,” Miranda said.

The treatment being developed will make use of antibodies, also known as hyperimmune globulins, found in convalescent plasma (CP) obtained from former COVID-19 patients.
Historically, this type of antibody treatment has been used in previous outbreaks such as SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV.

“The results of various clinical trials on convalescent plasma being undertaken all over the world will provide further data on clinical efficacy of the treatment. However, already, there is strong evidence available to show that this approach is highly likely to be successful,” Miranda said.

IG Biotech plans to collaborate with the Philippine General Hospital/UP College of Medicine on plasma collection, pre-clinical testing and conduct of clinical studies.

Charlotte Chiong, dean of the UP College of Medicine, expressed interest to conduct the study. “We should see how we can
explore this as a prophylaxis for our frontliners. Perhaps a multiagency research team can move this forward,” she said.

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