New COVID drug 'effective against all mutations' of Omicron variant

·3 min read
Undated handout photo of of the drug sotrovimab. Issue date: Thursday December 2, 2021.
The makers of sotrovimab say it is effective against all mutations of the Omicron coronavirus variant. (PA)

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline says it has developed a coronavirus drug that is effective against all mutations of the Omicron variant.

GSK said its treatment, Xevudy (or sotrovimab), an antibody-based COVID-19 therapy, works against all 37 identified mutations to date in Omicron’s spike protein.

The data from early-stage studies is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Last week, GSK and its US partner Vir Biotechnology said pre-clinical data showed sotrovimab worked against key mutations of the Omicron variant.

Watch: GSK says COVID drug works against all Omicron mutations

The development comes amid growing concerns as to the rate of spread of coronavirus. On Tuesday, a COVID-19 expert warned that Omicron cases in the UK will double every two days.

Also on Tuesday, it emerged Boris Johnson told his Cabinet that Omicron appears to be “more transmissible” than Delta.

However, a spokesman for the prime minister said there was no debate around the Cabinet table on whether to introduce Plan B of the Government’s plans to control the virus this winter.

Sotrovimab is designed to latch on to the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, but Omicron has been found to have an unusually high number of mutations on that protein.

Dr Hal Barron, chief scientific officer at GSK, said on Tuesday: “From the outset of our collaboration with Vir we hypothesised that sotrovimab would have a high barrier to resistance and thus could deliver best-in-class potential for the early treatment of patients with COVID-19. 

“These pre-clinical data demonstrate the potential for our monoclonal antibody to be effective against the latest variant, Omicron, plus all other variants of concern defined to date by the WHO, and we look forward to discussing these results with regulatory authorities around the world.”

Sotrovimab was approved by UK regulators last Thursday.

It was authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

These include obesity, being 60 or over, diabetes or heart disease.

The British government has ordered about 100,000 doses of the drug.

Undated handout photo of boxes of Sotrovimab which the makers say, works against the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 and has been approved by UK regulators. Issue date: Thursday December 2, 2021.
Sotrovimab has been approved by UK regulators. (PA)
Undated handout photo of of the drug sotrovimab being manufactured. Issue date: Thursday December 2, 2021.
The COVID drug sotrovimab being manufactured. (PA)

Read more: The 18 areas where a third of people still aren't vaccinated

In the earlier trial, one dose of sotrovimab reduced the risk of hospitalisation and death by 79% in high-risk adults.

George Scangos, chief executive of Vir, said last week: “Sotrovimab was deliberately designed with a mutating virus in mind.

“By targeting a highly conserved region of the spike protein that is less likely to mutate, we hoped to address both the current Sars-CoV-2 virus and future variants that we expected would be inevitable.”

The drug is the second monoclonal antibody treatment to be approved by the MHRA following Ronapreve.

The drug works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the COVID-19 virus, which in turn prevents the virus from attaching to and entering human cells, so it cannot replicate in the body.

Sotrovimab is administered by intravenous infusion over 30 minutes and is approved for people aged 12 and over.

Last week, Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “This is yet another therapeutic that has been shown to be effective at protecting those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and signals another significant step forward in our fight against this devastating disease.”

Watch: Omicron cases underestimated, says public health expert

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