Aug. 3 (UPI) -- U.S. pharma company Eli Lilly said Monday it has begun a large-scale clinical trial for a COVID-19 antiviral drug for elderly persons living in nursing homes and similar settings.
The company said a third-stage trial of its experimental LY-CoV555 monoclonal antibody treatment began at several long-term U.S. care facilities and is expected to enroll as many as 2,400 participants.
The rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, among residents of long-term care facilities, combined with the higher mortality rate for the elderly, has created an "urgent need for therapies to prevent COVID-19 in this vulnerable population," said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories.
"COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on nursing home residents," he said. "We're working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable individuals."
Lilly and biotech partner AbCellera are conducting the "BLAZE-2" study in conjunction with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the COVID-19 Prevention Network, or CoVPN.
The drugmaker said it will use custom-built, retrofitted recreational vehicles as mobile test labs at care facilities to meet challenges of conducting the trial amid the pandemic.
Eli Lilly says LY-CoV555 is a neutralizing antibody that latches onto the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and blocks its ability to enter human cells. This can potentially prevent and treat COVID-19.
A stage-two study of the drug is expected to finish next month.