Eli Lilly has started dosing participants in the Phase I clinical trial of antibody therapy LY-CoV555, which is intended to treat Covid-19 infection.

This is said to be the world’s first study to assess an antibody treatment for the disease.

LY-CoV555 is the first candidate resulting from Lilly’s partnership with AbCellera to develop antibody therapies for Covid-19 prevention and treatment.

Lilly developed the antibody in three months after AbCellera and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)’s Vaccine Research Center discovered it from a blood sample of one of the first patients who recovered from Covid-19 in the US.

LY-CoV555 is designed to specifically target SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. It is a neutralising IgG1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the spike protein of the virus.

The drug candidate is said to inhibit viral attachment and entry into human cells.

The first patients in the candidate’s Phase I trial have been enrolled at medical centres in the US, including NYU Grossman School of Medicine and Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

Eli Lilly chief scientific officer Daniel Skovronsky said: “We are privileged to help usher in this new era of drug development with the first potential new medicine specifically designed to attack the virus.

“Antibody therapies such as LY-CoV555 may have potential for both prevention and treatment of Covid-19 and may be particularly important for groups hardest hit by the disease such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”

If the antibody treatment is found to be safe in Phase I trial, Lilly will assess it in non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients and in a preventative setting.

The company plans to evaluate other neutralising antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 over the coming months. It will investigate single antibody therapy and combinations of its antibodies to potentially treat Covid-19.

In April this year, Lilly announced plans to conduct a clinical trial of rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib (Olumiant) for the treatment of patients with Covid-19.