Regeneron is a leading biotechnology company known for several large-selling drugs, including Eylea, Libtayo, Praluent and Dupixent.
Regeneron’s experimental three-antibody cocktail to tackle Ebola virus, REGN-EB3, was found highly effective in preventing deaths in the PALM trial conducted in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last year.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the New York-headquartered company has expanded its ongoing partnership with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop new treatments for combating Novel Coronavirus.
Christos Kyratsous, Vice President of Infectious Disease R&D at Regeneron believes that his company’s rapid response technology platforms are particularly well-suited for use in quickly-developing outbreak situations.
Edited excerpts from an interview with FM:
Why does Regeneron think the company can develop a treatment to COVID-19 – a newly emerged virus whose pathologic mechanism is yet to be fully figured out?
Generally, we feel well equipped to tackle the challenge of this virus, given our turn-key technology for rapid antibody therapeutic development as well as our track-record in infectious diseases. Regeneron’s proprietary VelociSuite technologies – including the VelocImmune platform which uses a unique, genetically-engineered mouse with a humanised immune system that can be challenged with all or parts of a virus of interest – are able to facilitate swift identification, preclinical validation and the development of promising antibody candidates. VelociSuite technologies are therefore particularly well-suited for use in quickly-developing outbreak situations, as was done for MERS and Ebola.
In what way is Regeneron planning to leverage bispecific antibodies against the disease?
We are exploring monoclonal antibody approaches against this virus and not bispecifics.
The development of monoclonals is usually a long-drawn-out process. But reports quoting Regeneron officials say that the company could make treatments available for testing within a few months. How exactly does Regeneron aim to achieve this?
Each disease or case is different. But as a reference point, for Ebola it took us six months to discover brand new antibodies, isolate them and demonstrate their efficacy in preclinical models. This is very fast compared to ‘normal’ drug development timelines. If we are able to apply some of our existing antibodies against novel coronavirus, timelines may be shorter. This is all facilitated by our VelociSuite technologies.
How is the collaboration with HHS going to help Regeneron’s efforts to develop mAbs against COVID-19?
HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will provide funding for Regeneron’s preclinical research. It is part of a larger, existing collaboration originally established in 2017. It is focused on the discovery, research, development and manufacturing of a portfolio of antibodies targeting up to 10 pathogens that pose a significant risk to public health, now including the influenza virus and COVID-19. We also have separate collaborations with HHS supporting our work on MERS and Ebola.
Regeneron has a highly diversified pipeline of monoclonals. Does the company think antibody medicines will alter the course of treatment of almost every illness, including infections of the future? Why?
We believe strongly in the power of antibody therapeutics and have been able to successfully apply this approach in a variety of diseases, such as moderate-to-severe eczema, asthma and types of cancer. We don’t think it is the only or a universal modality, but we do think there is large potential to help people in need and we will continue to apply our specific discovery and development technologies in many therapeutic areas.