The Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII) has teamed up with Merck KGaA, Germany, to develop COVID-19 fighting monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), made by cloning a unique white blood cell to increase immunity and fight diseases, along with drug research driven nonprofit scientific research organization IAVI and Scripps Research.
Companies like Eli Lilly to several drug makers worldwide are trying solutions with mAbs to prevent COVID-19 virus replication in the human body.
A joint communication said Merck and Serum will work on the research expertise of IAVI and Scripps Research on HIV virus neutralizing antibody research and development to develop and manufacture mAbs that can control COVID-19 virus. Merck will lead commercialisation in developed countries. Serum Institute will lead global manufacturing as well as commercialisation in low-and middle-low-income countries, including India.
The scientists at IAVI's Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC) were part of a team that identified antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients and positive data was published in June, said sources.
Under IAVI's agreement with Merck and Serum Institute, the partners will conduct an accelerated, integrated program of preclinical and clinical research to evaluate the antibodies for treatment of COVID-19. A Phase I clinical trial is expected to start early in 2021. Syngene International, part of Biocon and based in Bengaluru, is a collaborating partner for the development and conduct of assays to support clinical development of the SARS-CoV-2 mAb candidates.
"We're aware of the tremendous potential for monoclonal antibodies to be used in COVID-19 response. By combining the scientific achievements of IAVI and Scripps Research with our partners' development, manufacturing, and distribution expertise, we are hopeful that this partnership will result in globally accessible antibodies that are available to all who can benefit from them," said Mark Feinberg, president and CEO of IAVI.
"We share a common purpose to accelerate this promising science and deliver effective solutions that address global challenges presented by this pandemic," said Elen Garijo, vice chair of the executive board and deputy CEO, Merck. "Given the breadth and scale of our technology and our long-standing devotion to improving health especially in low-income countries, I am confident that we and our partners are on a productive path that will lead to a much-needed, globally available tool for COVID-19 treatment and possibly prevention," said Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute.