Eli Lilly and Co could have a drug specifically intended to treat COVID-19 cleared for use as early as September, if everything goes well with either of the two antibody treatments the biotech group is testing, its head scientist told Reuters Wednesday.

In an interview, Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said that Lilly is also doing preclinical tests of a third-party antibody treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that can be applied to human trials in the coming weeks. Lilly has started human tests already with two of the experimental therapies.

The US-based Eli Lilly announced that its partner Junshi Biosciences has administered the first healthy volunteer with a dose in a trial of a potential neutralizing antibody treatment developed to contain the COVID-19 virus.

This investigational vaccine, referred to as JS016, is being co-made by Junshi Biosciences and Lilly, with Junshi Biosciences spearheading the development in greater China, Lilly disclosed on June 8 in a media release. Eli Lilly is also collaborating with AbCellera of Canada on one of the antibodies called LY-Cov555.

JS016 is a recombinant fully human neutralizing antibody, which has been redeveloped to lessen its so-called effector function. The antibody specifically binds to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor-binding domain and effectively blocks the binding of viruses to the ACE2 host cell receptor, Lilly said.

These antibodies are already also being used to treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, among other ailments. The key will be whether around August or September subjects given the therapy are able to avoid being hospitalized, which could lead to their authorization for urgent use.

Under the best situations, one antibody would show its effectiveness, as opposed to a mixture, which means hundreds of thousands of vaccines could be ready by end of the year. Eli Lilly disclosed that it was willing to apply its manufacturing techniques to develop its competitor's treatments should its own fail during clinical tests.

Lilly said it has a strong preference to create a vaccine that can work effectively in coronavirus patients as a stand-alone, as making these kinds of medicines, which are usually taken through infusion, is a complicated method and capacity is limited.

Meanwhile, Lilly has exclusive rights and will start dosing patients in a complementary Phase 1 Study in the US in the next few days. The research aims to study the tolerability, safety, and immunogenicity of the JS016 in healthy subjects who have not been infected with the virus.