While the coronavirus has impacted millions of Americans across the United States, it has hit the elderly population particularly hard. In fact, more than 40 percent of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have been linked to long-term care facilities, according to a New York Times survey. In an effort to bring those numbers down, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has just launched a late-stage antibody treatment trial focusing on residents and staff at nursing homes. 

"COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on nursing home residents," Lilly's chief scientific officer Daniel Skovronsky said in a statement. "We're working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable individuals."

The trial is expected to enroll up to 2,400 participants who live or work at a facility and have recently been diagnosed with the disease. The trial will evaluate the safety and success of using LY-CoV555, a potent, neutralizing antibody that works against the spike protein of the novel coronavirus. The trial will look at whether a single dose of the antibody treatment reduces the rate of infection over four weeks as well as symptoms over eight weeks.

"The importance of these kinds of therapies for people like the elderly or immunocompromised is that they can provide the hope and the safety net that these people really need right now," said Andrew Adams, vice president of new therapeutic modalities & COVID-19 research at Eli Lilly, who is overseeing the trial. "I think people in those populations are really desperate and looking for something to help with the coronavirus."

Eli Lilly is taking its trial on the road with customized mobile research units that can travel  directly to areas that are experiencing outbreaks. 

"This is an interesting solution, to bring the medicine to these vulnerable patients," said Adams. "This lets us be flexible and move these trials around the country, tracking these trials as we come across them."

Adams said he is hoping Eli Lilly will have results on the efficacy of these antibodies in the fourth quarter of this year. Even if successful, though, he says research for a vaccine needs to continue.

"These have to be thought of as more of a bridge, where a vaccine provides long-term protection in terms of years of immunity, where we will provide hopefully in the range of months with these types of treatments. We hope this to be a short-term bridge to the long-term effective vaccination," he said.

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