The city-based Serum Institute of India (SII), along with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit scientific research organisation, on Thursday announced an agreement with pharmaceutical major Merck to develop SARS-CoV-2 neutralising monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).
Monoclonal antibodies are man-made proteins that act like human antibodies in the immune system. These antibodies are co-invented by IAVI and Scripps Research as ‘innovative interventions’ to address 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 broadly neutralising antibody research and development, and on Merck’s and Serum Institute’s significant capabilities in design and scale up of accelerated manufacturing processes for mAbs production. The global development plan is being led by the three organizations in partnership,” said a statement issued by the SII.
If the highly potent and broadly cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibody candidates being advanced through this partnership are shown to be efficacious in clinical trial (either as a single antibody or a potential combination of both candidates), then Merck will lead commercialisation in developed countries. SII will lead global manufacturing as well as 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, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI.