Researchers test antibody drug as treatment for COVID-19

Stanford Medicine has joined a multisite clinical trial testing antibodies designed to block the coronavirus from infecting human cells and shorten the course of the illness.

Andra Blomkalns

Stanford Medicine researchers are investigating whether a combination of specific antibodies can reduce early symptoms of COVID-19 in people with mild to moderate cases of the disease.

Their effort is part of a multisite clinical trial of an antibody drug developed by Eli Lilly and AbCellera that aims to enroll 550 participants at hospitals and medical centers nationwide. 

Andra Blomkalns, MD, principal investigator of the Stanford trial site, said she hopes to enroll 20 to 40 participants who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Stanford Health Care’s Marc and Laura Andreessen Emergency Department

“The goal is to see if we can get sick people better faster, reducing both the length of their illness and how long they are shedding the virus, and therefore help prevent others from getting sick,” said Blomkalns, professor and chair of emergency medicine. “I think this treatment shows great promise.”

It’s a Phase II trial, which means the treatment has already undergone testing for safety in humans and is now being evaluated for both safety and effectiveness. 

The experimental treatment uses antibodies identified in the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19. 

“An antibody is like a mask put onto the virus,” Blomkalns said. “It sticks to the virus and doesn’t allow it to attach or inject itself into the host cell.” 

Stanford researchers are contacting patients within 24 hours if they test positive for the virus. Those who choose to participate in the trial will receive an injection at the emergency department’s research area. Some will get the antibody treatment; others will get a placebo.

Follow-up assessments will include blood draws and samples taken from the back of the upper throat by health care workers at participants’ homes to measure how much virus is in the body at various times during the 12-week study. 

“Our hope is to effect treatment early in the course of disease, before it has time to progress further and potentially damage organs,” Blomkalns said. 

Early results from the trial are expected later this month.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

COVID-19 Updates

Stanford Medicine is closely monitoring the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). A dedicated page provides the latest information and developments related to the pandemic.

Leading In Precision Health

Stanford Medicine is leading the biomedical revolution in precision health, defining and developing the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive and precise.