(Reuters) – AstraZeneca said on Tuesday it had begun testing an antibody-based treatment for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, with the first participants dosed, adding to recent signs of progress on possible medical solutions to the disease.

The British drugmaker, whose COVID-19 vaccine candidate is already among the most advanced, said the early-stage trial would evaluate if AZD7442, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), was safe and tolerable in up to 48 healthy participants between the ages of 18 and 55 years.

If the UK-based trial has a positive readout, AstraZeneca said it would proceed with larger, mid-to-late-stage trials to test AZD7442 as both a preventative treatment for the disease and a medicine for patients who have it.

mAbs mimic natural antibodies generated in the body to fight off infection and can be synthesised in the laboratory to treat diseases in patients and has been endorsed by top scientists. Current uses include treatment of some types of cancers.

London-listed AstraZeneca in June received $23.7 million in funding from U.S. government agencies to advance development of antibody-based treatments for the novel coronavirus.

U.S. based companies Regeneron and ELi Lilly are also testing mAbs-based treatments for COVID-19.