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IAVI, Serum Institute sign pact with Merck to develop coronavirus neutralising antibodies

International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit organisation, and Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine producer by volume, on Thursday announced an agreement with Merck, a leading American multinational pharmaceutical company, to develop SARS-CoV-2 neutralising monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The antibodies have been co-invented by IAVI and Scripps Research, a non-profit American biomedical research facility, as innovative interventions to rein in the global spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The agreement builds on the advanced antibody discovery and optimisation expertise of IAVI and Scripps Research gained from years of experience in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) neutralising antibody research and development and on Merck’s and SII’s significant capabilities in design and scaling up of accelerated manufacturing processes for mAbs production…” stated a press release.

The three organisations are working in tandem for the global development plan.

If the highly potent and broadly cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibody candidates make progress and are shown to be efficacious in clinical trials, either as a single antibody or a potential combination of both candidates, then Merck will take the lead in commercialisation of the breakthrough research in developed countries.

SII will take the lead in global manufacturing and also commercialisation in low-and middle-low-income countries, including India.

““We’re acutely 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 chief executive officer (CEO), IAVI, in a statement.

Belén Garijo, vice-chairman, executive board and deputy CEO, Merck, said, “Together with IAVI and SII, we look forward to demonstrating the potential application of these monoclonal antibodies in the management of Covid-19. We share a common purpose to accelerate this promising science and deliver effective solutions that address global challenges presented by this pandemic.”

Neutralising mAbs against SARS-CoV-2 are widely considered to be promising candidates for Covid-19 treatment and prevention.

“…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, SII.

Encouraging results for Covid-19 antibody treatment have emerged from preclinical research and also initial clinical trials.

“mAbs have the potential to play an important complementary role to Covid-19 vaccines both for treatment and potentially for prevention, especially for those individuals who, due to age or medical conditions, may not benefit from vaccination,” the release added.

By Hindustan Times

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