Regeneron joins the hunt for antibodies to fight a brewing pandemic as researchers whip up new trials for antivirals
Count Regeneron as the latest big biopharma company to pitch in on finding a therapy to combat the Wuhan virus.
Health and Human Services said on Tuesday that they’ll be working with Regeneron to use its antibody platform tech — one of the best in the world — to hunt for a therapy to fight the lethal virus. This is an expansion of a joint project they set up a little more than 2 years ago to hunt for antibodies that worked against Ebola and 9 other viruses, including flu viruses.
The news from Regeneron follows Gilead’s high-profile announcement that it’s testing its experimental antiviral remdesivir to see how it works on the Wuhan virus following some success with MERS and SARS, which are related to the Wuhan virus now closing down travel links between China and the rest of the world.
Regeneron CSO George Yancopoulos said in a statement that their tech platform puts them in a position “to respond quickly and effectively to new pathogens.” He cited some positive results for their Ebola program last year in announcing the new deal with HHS.
A spokesperson for the big biotech tells me the hunt is now on for new antibodies using their VelocImmune rapid response technologies while checking the library to see if any of the antibodies they have on hand could be used.
Biotech startup Vir has also joined the hunt to find antibodies against the virus. And there are also reports of a string of new clinical studies testing HIV and flu med combos — most prominently including lopinavir and ritonavir, along with oseltamivir. And AbbVie has reportedly been donating its HIV drug Kaletra to the cause in China.
BioCentury ran a list of 9 studies now underway in China.
A number of developers like CureVac and Moderna — working with the NIH — have jumped into the race to develop a vaccine against the Wuhan virus. But experts say that could easily take more than a year to get a jab that could be put into use around the world.
At last count Tuesday morning the epidemic in China had claimed 427 lives, with more than 20,000 cases as President Xi Jinping declared a “people’s war” against the virus. One person died in Hong Kong, another in the Philippines and cases have been reported in dozens of countries around the world. And a number of experts say that a global pandemic appears all but inevitable.