AstraZeneca has begun research efforts focused on the identification and development of antibody therapies against Covid-19 coronavirus infection.

The company will use its in-house capabilities and form alliances to discover monoclonal antibodies that could detect, attach to and neutralise the SARS-CoV-2.

Synthesised in a laboratory, monoclonal antibodies work similarly to natural antibodies. They neutralise the virus and can act as a preventative, as well as a treatment.

Internally, biopharmaceutical experts at AstraZeneca are leveraging its antibody discovery technology, which previously helped in identifying potential antibodies for influenza-A.

The technology was developed as part of an agreement with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In addition, AstraZeneca is also working with government and academia to study potential candidates for clinical use.

Among these partners, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the US will provide genetic sequences for anti- SARS-CoV-2 antibodies identified by them.

AstraZeneca will conduct in-silico and in-vitro evaluation of these antibodies.

The antibodies discovered internally by the company will be tested preclinically through partnerships with the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

AstraZeneca is also discussing clinical development and manufacturing support with the government.

AstraZeneca BioPharmaceuticals R&D executive vice-president Mene Pangalos said: “Through our scientific expertise in infectious disease and antibody discovery and development, we have rapidly mobilised our research efforts to help respond to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

“By partnering with government and academia, our ambition is to accelerate the discovery and development of a safe and effective antibody treatment to help fight Covid-19.”

Researchers at the company will analyse recovered Covid-19 patients, immunised humanised mice and laboratory techniques for antibodies against the novel coronavirus.

AstraZeneca expects to advance potential antibodies into clinical evaluation within three to five months.