A scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The Regeneron drug, REGN-Cov2, is a combination of two antibodies that block the coronavirus's "spike protein" it uses to invade human cells. Picture:AFP PHOTO /NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH/NIAD-RML/HANDOUT
A scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2 (round blue objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The Regeneron drug, REGN-Cov2, is a combination of two antibodies that block the coronavirus's "spike protein" it uses to invade human cells. Picture:AFP PHOTO /NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH/NIAD-RML/HANDOUT

Bengaluru — The US government has signed a $450m contract with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for its potential Covid-19 antibody cocktail.

The agreement, the first by the Trump administration to support a therapy, comes under the government’s “operation warp speed” programme aimed at faster distribution of vaccines and treatments to fight the new coronavirus when trials are successful.

The US is also funding manufacturing and several trials for potential vaccines and has rushed to secure billions of doses of the vaccines being tested by companies around the world.

Earlier in the day, Novavax received a $1.6bn grant, the biggest award yet from the programme, to cover testing, manufacturing and sale of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Under the contract with Regeneron, signed with the US health and human services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the US department of defence, the doses manufactured under the project will be owned by the federal government.

Regeneron’s cocktail, REGN-Cov2, contains an antibody made by the company and another isolated from recovered Covid-19 patients. Rivals Eli Lilly and AbbVie are also pursuing antibody therapies for the respiratory illness.

REGN-Cov2 is being tested separately for both preventing and treating Covid-19, with a late-stage prevention trial being run jointly with the US National Institutes of Health.

The agreement covers a fixed number of bulk lots intended to be completed in the third quarter of  2020, Regeneron said.

A range of 70,000 to 300,000 potential treatment doses or 420,000 to 1,300,000 prevention doses are expected to be available from these lots, with initial doses to be ready as early as end of summer.

The US government would make the doses available to Americans at no cost, if emergency use authorisation or product approval is granted, Regeneron said.

Shares of Regeneron were up 1.4% at $636.11. They have risen 67% so far this year.

Reuters

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