AbbVie pulls the trigger on a Covid-19 antibody, going all in on a drug discovered by research alliance
With multiple repurposed Covid-19 treatments already in the clinic (and one that flunked out), AbbVie is placing its next bet on something new: an experimental antibody it spent the last several months developing with Harbour BioMed, the Netherlands’ Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center.
AbbVie joined the antibody hunt back in June, with its sights set on Harbour’s 47D11. The Illinois-based pharma is now putting down a one-time license fee for worldwide development and commercialization rights to the antibody, which it says shows promise in not only SARS-CoV-2, but also related mutations of the virus and SARS-CoV-1. It dosed the first patient in a 24-person Phase I trial just last week.
Harbour and Utrecht are keeping quiet about the terms of the licensing deal, except to note that they’ll receive certain milestone payments and tiered royalties on net sales. Erasmus wasn’t involved in the deal.
47D11 was discovered last year using the Harbour Mice platform, and was originally in development for SARS-CoV-1. Then the pandemic struck, and Harbour CEO Jingsong Wang said the companies realized its potential for SARS-CoV-2. It targets a conserved region of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and Wang said there’s a possibility it could be used to treat other coronaviruses as well.
“Of course, we’ll need further validation,” he added.
The study will test the antibody in three different doses at test sites across the US, with safety as the primary endpoint. Harbour said they expect the trial to wrap up around May.
Although AbbVie didn’t have much prior experience in developing antibodies for viruses, much of their other work centers on antibodies, like the TNF-blocking antibody Humira.
AbbVie’s cenicriviroc — which has shown to be underwhelming as a NASH treatment — was selected by the NIH in October for a new ACTIV-1 Immune Modulators adaptive study, in an effort to find new ways to stave off the cytokine storms that kill some patients. Its IL-23 drug with Boehringer Ingelheim was also chosen for an NIH study for Covid-19.
Another of the company’s efforts to fight the pandemic proved unsuccessful back in June, when UK RECOVERY trial investigators concluded that the HIV antiviral Kaletra was ineffective against Covid-19. For 1,596 patients given the drug, the 28-day mortality rate was 22.1%, compared to 21.3% for the 3,376 who received standard care.
Going forth, ABBV-47D11 may also be tested as a preventative therapy. “That is something that is being reviewed and discussed internally at this point,” Harbour chief strategy officer and head of US operations Atul Deshpande said.
“We’re really excited to contribute to the ongoing pandemic in face of all the challenges that all of us globally are facing,” Wang said.