Roche, Regeneron link up to develop COVID-19 antibody cocktail

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ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche is adding its manufacturing muscle and global development expertise to Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN)’s bid to create an antibody cocktail for COVID-19 that the Swiss and U.S. companies hope can be used to slow the pandemic.

Regeneron, which expects data from REGN-COV2 in humans next month after it prevented and treated the disease in rhesus macaques and hamsters, would handle U.S. sales and Roche worldwide distribution should it win approval, the companies said on Wednesday.

Roche has one of the world’s largest antibody production operations, including U.S. facilities in San Francisco, and will boost overall capacity for REGN-COV2 by at least three and a half times, a feat Regeneron would have been hard pressed to accomplish going it alone.

“This major collaboration with Roche provides important scale and global expertise to bring REGN-COV2 to many more patients in the United States and around the globe,” Regeneron Chief Executive Leonard Schleifer said.

Roche’s move to join up comes after its own drug, Actemra, failed in a trial against COVID-19.

The companies will fund and run ongoing late-stage Phase 3 prevention and earlier-stage Phase 1 healthy volunteers safety studies, as well as additional studies to evaluate REGN-COV2 in treating or preventing COVID-19.

The medicine combines one Regeneron-made antibody and a second antibody isolated from humans who recovered from COVID-19.

The combination is designed to bind to the spike protein used by the new coronavirus to gain access to human cells, limiting its ability to escape.

Zuercher Kantonalbank analyst Michael Nawrath said he expects REGN-COV2 to win regulators’ blessings.

“With big biotech facilities at its Genentech unit, Roche can quickly scale up production capacity,” Nawrath wrote. “Global supplies can be guaranteed, something Regeneron couldn’t have done by itself.”

Roche shares were up 1.1% at 1056 GMT.