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AbbVie Acquires Coronavirus Antibody Therapy

SARS-Cov-2 virus

Scanning electron microscope image of SARS-Cov-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19 infections (NIH.gov)

15 Dec. 2020. Drug maker AbbVie is licensing a synthetic antibody to treat Covid-19 and SARS coronaviruses that the company began funding in June. AbbVie, in Chicago, is acquiring the rights to the antibody therapy it code-names ABBV-47D11 from Dutch-Chinese biotechnology company Harbour BioMed and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Harbour Biomed develops synthetic antibodies for immune disorders, cancer, and infectious diseases with genetically engineered mice. The company injects antigens, proteins that generate an antibody response, into the engineered mice that create cell lines called hybridomas. The variety of transgenic mice called H2L2 are engineered by Harbour Medical to produce human antibodies that for Covid-19 target a vulnerable region on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for infections.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in June 2020, Harbour Biomed and academic partners Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam designed a synthetic antibody as a treatment and vaccine against Covid-19. The antibody, described by researchers in the journal Nature Communications, targets a vulnerable region is the SARS-CoV-2 virus’s spike that penetrates and infects cells. Proteins on the spike bind to angiotensin coverting enzyme 2, or ACE2, receptors, triggering Covid-19 infections.

In the paper, lab tests by the Harbour BioMed, Utrecht, and Erasmus research team show the reformatted and optimized 47D11 antibody blocks the spike surface proteins from binding to ACE2 receptors, effectively neutralizing the virus and preventing infections. The researchers also show the antibody works similarly against SARS-CoV-1 viruses responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003. After the paper’s publication, AbbVie began funding further development of 47D11.

The licensing deal gives AbbVie global rights for further development, manufacturing, and commercialization of ABBV-47D11. For those rights, Harbour BioMed and Utrecht University receive a one-time licensing fee, and are eligible for development, regulatory, and sales milestone payments, as well as royalties on sales of future products. Dollar amounts of those payments were not disclosed. Erasmus Medical Center is not involved in the agreement.

AbbVie is starting an early-stage clinical trial of ABBV-47D11, testing for the antibody’s safety, immune response, and chemical activity in the body. The trial is enrolling 24 participants diagnosed with Covid-19 infections and hospitalized with respiratory tract symptoms. Participants are randomly assigned to receive ABBV-47D11 in one of three dosage levels or a placebo as an intravenous infusion, then tracked for up to 15 weeks. The study team is looking primarily for any adverse effects from the treatment, but also for concentrations of ABBV-47D11 in the blood, detection of anti-drug antibodies, and reductions in SARS-Cov-2 viral RNA.

“With the clinical program at AbbVie now underway,” says Harbour BioMed founder and CEO Jingsong Wang in a company statement, “we are in a position to contribute a new therapeutic option to address this pandemic.”

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