Regeneron plans early summer trials for new antibodies against Covid-19

NEW YORK: Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Tuesday it had identified hundreds of antibodies that could treat or prevent the coronavirus and was preparing to begin clinical trials by early summer, sending the drugmaker’s shares up nearly 12%.

The announcement comes a day after the drugmaker started testing its rheumatoid arthritis drug, Kevzara, with partner Sanofi against the virus.

Regeneron said it will select the top two antibodies to develop a ‘cocktail’ treatment and scale up its manufacturing to be able to produce 200,000 doses per month by the end of summer.

At least a dozen other drugmakers are currently working on vaccines or antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading deadly virus, with some antivirals already being used in clinical trials.

Pfizer Inc will co-develop a vaccine with German drugmaker BioNTech SE as well as develop antiviral treatments that could be potentially used with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral called remdesivir against coronavirus.

Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi have also teamed up with a US government agency to develop virus vaccine candidates.

So far, drug developer Moderna Inc, which dosed its first patient with its experimental vaccine on Monday, has made the most headway among companies engaged in coronavirus vaccine development efforts.

Regeneron is also considering testing whether its antibody cocktail could be used along with the vaccines in development, spokeswoman Alexandra Bowie told Reuters.

“There’s a lot of things racing towards the finish line, all at once. It’s yet to be seen what the exact combination would be,” Bowie added.

The efforts are a part of its partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services. Regeneron also said it was working with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Defense Authority to its increase manufacturing capacity.

The company’s shares, which have risen 17% so far this year, were up at US$492.51 in early morning trading.