A Limerick-based company is aiming to begin human trials of a Covid-19 treatment by early summer.
New York biotech firm Regeneron, which has a major industrial operations centre in the former Dell factory in Raheen, has identified hundreds of virus-neutralising antibodies and plans to begin large-scale manufacturing of doses next month.
The rapid spread of Covid-19 around the globe has led to a flood of announcements from drug companies touting potential treatments for the still incurable disease.
However, Regeneron’s approach is seen as a more optimistic route towards a cure given their track record in responding to virus outbreaks.
Regeneron created a trial-ready Ebola treatment in about a year in response to a 2014 outbreak of the disease, but the drug didn’t make it to market in time to help before the flare up subsided.
When Ebola emerged again in 2018, their REGN-EB3 treatment was sent to Africa for testing alongside several other drugs. Only 29% of those who took Regeneron's drug died throughout the trial, compared with a mortality rate of about 50% for people who took two less effective medicines.
The company’s efforts on Covid-19 are centred on using mice engineered with human-like immune systems and rapidly developing the antibodies they generate into human medicines.
All coronaviruses have a single glycoprotein on the virus surface called the spike protein that binds to the host cell and is required for infectivity. Regeneron's antibodies will target the spike protein in order to block its interaction with the host cell, and thus neutralise the virus.
The company is working toward the goal of producing hundreds of thousands of doses per month by the end of summer and hopes to have smaller quantities available for initial clinical testing at the beginning of the summer.
Regeneron’s facility in Limerick manufactures a range of biopharmaceuticals for patients worldwide, including the company’s approved therapeutic proteins and those involved in clinical studies.The Raheen campus employs approximately 1,000 workers.
Regeneron President and Co-founder said: "Given the tremendous interest and concern around the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be providing regular and transparent updates on our discovery and development programs.”
Regeneron is already working on a separate clinical trial in collaboration with Sanofi evaluating their arthritis drug Kevzara to see if it will help patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19.
- Additional reporting Bloomberg