It's almost difficult to keep track of the controversies that have been generated by COVID-19, but perhaps one of the biggest is how governments responded to it in terms of nursing home patients. Arguably the most vulnerable population of humans when it comes to getting diseases—especially novel ones like this—the elderly need the most protection. Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) recently revealed it was moving into late-stage testing on a new coronavirus treatment specifically geared toward nursing home patients.
What's Up Eli Lilly's Collective Sleeve
The new drug in question is an antibody treatment known as LY-CoV555, which was developed as part of a partnership effort with Canadian biotech firm AbCellera Biologics Inc. AbCellera was recently spotted working on a partnership effort with Autolus Therapeutics plc (NASDAQ: AUTL) in a bid to develop a T cell therapy for multiple myeloma.
Currently, Eli Lilly is testing LY-CoV555 in hospitals to see if it's effective as a treatment. Now, the company is trying it in nursing homes to see if it can work prophylactically, or as a defense in advance of catching the disease. LY-CoV555 recently moved into mid-stage trials as a treatment system, and the company expects data about the product's efficacy sometime in the fourth quarter.
Taking Aim at a Wider Problem
Reports suggest that Eli Lilly is using a mobile treatment van to take its potential cure door-to-door, stopping at various partner long-term care facilities throughout the US, in some cases renovating recreational vehicles to serve as infrastructure for delivering the treatment.
Eli Lilly is part of several drugmakers working on treatments for COVID-19, and focusing on a sector of medication known as “monoclonal antibodies”. Such treatments are regarded as being among the best such chances for developing a therapeutic response to the coronavirus, which will help substantially until vaccines can be properly developed and brought to the market.
Monoclonal antibody treatments are given by infusion, reports note, and are actually similar to treatments involving blood plasma donated by COVID-19 survivors. There's one major difference, however, as monoclonal antibody treatments can be developed in laboratories and the like. That makes them much more readily obtained and put out into the public's hands. Current research staged around the efficacy of monoclonal antibody treatments suggests that it's likely to end up effective once all the tests are complete.
Beating the Competition by Shifting Market Focus
One of the biggest problems businesses have faced in the development of a coronavirus vaccine—or even coronavirus treatments in general—is what happens when each individual treatment isn't the first to market. That first-mover advantage is critical in a space like this, though less so than normal thanks to the US government's seemingly ongoing policy to buy up massive runs of whatever has been created to fight COVID-19.
This, however, represents a step in a whole new direction. Rather than scrapping for the first-mover advantage, Eli Lilly has instead taken the novel step to focus its efforts on one specific segment of the population: nursing home patients. While everyone else has been going after slices of a huge market—the size of said slices necessarily decrease as more companies belly up to said market—Eli Lilly seems to be out to claim the first major slice of a market that's been minimally addressed so far. That effectively gives Eli Lilly a market advantage; though the nursing home market isn't anywhere near as big as the general market, there are also fewer players therein, giving Eli Lilly an artificial first-mover advantage.
The optics certainly don't hurt matters here either. By being the company of note for treating the elderly from a disease that's more likely to kill them than almost anyone else, Eli Lilly gets to cast itself as a company who cares. That's always valuable in terms of future product line marketing; being the company who “beat coronavirus in the nursing home”, so to speak, should be a great boost to any further nursing home sales.
All of this is naturally predicated on having a treatment that works. With Eli Lilly in late-stage testing, it may manage to be the first big-name drug to market. Though it will have plenty of competition, especially from currently-available alternatives like dexamethasone and the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin/zinc combination, it's going to have the force of a brand name behind it, and that's hard to beat.
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