The monoclonal antibody treatment will be tested in clinical trials, with the goal of reaching patients around the world—including in low- and middle-income countries.
LA JOLLA, CA—Immunologists at Scripps Research, in partnership with colleagues at the IAVI Neutralizing Antibody Center, published a key discovery in June that’s now on its way to becoming a widely available treatment for COVID-19.
As detailed in the journal Science, the team found that certain antibodies in the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients were capable of potently neutralizing SARS-CoV2, the virus that’s driving the pandemic. Animals that received these antibodies were protected against COVID-19 after being exposed to SARS-CoV-2.
Today, this portfolio of antibodies serves as the foundation of a global program with potential to treat and prevent not only COVID-19, but also other coronaviruses that may arise or re-emerge in the future. IAVI announced an agreement with two large pharmaceutical companies—Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Serum Institute of India—that will leverage their distinct geographic footprints and infrastructure to develop the antibodies into treatments that could be made available around the world. A phase 1 clinical trial is expected to start early in 2021.
The accelerated discovery of highly potent SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies by IAVI and Scripps Research scientists was achieved by a tremendous collaborative effort of a team committed to translating state-of-the-art monoclonal antibody science into public health interventions.”
If the antibody candidates are effective in clinical trials, either as a single antibody or as a combination, Merck KGaA will lead commercialization in developed countries and Serum Institute will lead global manufacturing, as well as commercialization in low- and middle-low-income countries, including India. Serum Institute is the world’s largest producer of vaccines.
A central goal of the agreement is to ensure equitable global access to the potential antibody therapy, a goal that’s also a cornerstone of IAVI’s mission. IAVI recently published a global call to action that highlights both the transformative nature of monoclonal antibody treatments and the glaring lack of access to such drugs in low- and middle-income countries.
Under the agreement, IAVI will work with Merck KGaA and Serum Institute to conduct an accelerated preclinical and clinical research program to evaluate the antibodies for treatment of COVID-19.
As Burton noted in a recent Nature Biotechnology article, antibody therapies are urgently needed for pandemic response and will likely continue to be needed even after a vaccine is available—especially for those who may not benefit from vaccination due to age or medical conditions.