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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

December 20, 2021 by Anna Kovacevich

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On Thursday, AstraZeneca and Regeneron reported data on the effectiveness of their COVID-19 antibody treatments against the omicron variant of the virus. Regeneron’s therapy, REGEN-COV, is less effective against omicron, though is still active against the delta variant, confirming indications from lab tests and computer modelling late last month. AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail, Evusheld, retained neutralizing activity against omicron, according to the lab study results. Earlier last week, researchers also announced that Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment lost effectiveness against omicron in lab tests, while GSK-Vir Biotechnology’s antibody treatment retained neutralizing activity against all tested coronavirus variants, including omicron. The omicron variant has been detected in 77 countries since it was first identified three weeks ago, driving concerns that its large number of mutations could help it evade protection by COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

A new needle-free COVID-19 vaccine to protect against future virus variants is being tested in the United Kingdom, researchers announced last week. The DIOS-CoVax vaccine, developed by scientists at Cambridge University, is administered through spring-powered jet injection and uses predictive methods to mimic the wider family of coronavirus antigens with the goal of providing more protection than existing vaccines. The trial, which will include participants aged 18 to 50, is a first step toward a universal coronavirus vaccine to protect people from COVID-19 variants and future coronaviruses—a vital part of next-generation vaccine candidates to help protect the world from the next virus threats, according to a researcher involved in its development.

An antimalarial drug in development by Zydus Cadila in partnership with the Medicines for Malaria Venture received orphan drug designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday. The designation makes the drug eligible for certain development incentives, including tax credits for qualified clinical testing, prescription drug user fee exemptions, and seven-year marketing exclusivity upon FDA approval. The drug, ZY19489, is a novel antimalarial compound that combats all current clinical strains of P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria, including drug-resistant strains. A phase 1 study indicated the drug has a long half-life and potential as a single-dose cure for malaria.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.