Limerick-based pharmaceutical company announces advances in coronavirus anti-body programme

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RAHEEN-based pharmaceutical company Regeneron is working alongside its sister plant in New York to develop a “full suite of medicines” as the company launched clinical test trials on critically ill coronavirus patients, in the hope of developing a life-saving vaccine.

The company, which employs around 1,000 people at its European headquarters at the Raheen Industrial Estate, said it had “identified hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies” from mice as well as people who have recovered from COVID-19.

It “plans to initiate large-scale manufacturing by mid-April with antibody cocktail therapy, with potential to enter human clinical studies by early summer”.

When the Limerick Post specifically asked the company if its Limerick factory was playing any role in the manufacturing or otherwise of the coronavirus trial testing programme, a Regeneron spokeswoman replied: “Our Industrial Operations and Product Supply (IOPS) teams in Limerick and Rensselaer, NY work together to make our full suite of medicines between the two manufacturing facilities.”

“We don’t disclose which products are made where,” they said.

A statement release by Regeneron, March 17, stated the immediate program “is in addition to Regeneron’s separate ongoing clinical program evaluating a receptor antibody, in severe COVID-19 patients”.

The company stated that in its latest efforts for a vaccine, its scientists had isolated “fully human antibodies from the company’s VelocImmune® mice, which have been genetically-modified to have a human immune system”.

“Regeneron has also isolated antibodies from humans who have recovered from COVID-19, in order to maximize the pool of potentially potent antibodies.”

The company is progressing its proposed therapy “from this large pool of candidates”.

“Using a multi-antibody approach allows for targeting of different parts of the virus and may help protect against multiple viral variants.”

Regeneron previously used similar technologies “to rapidly develop a successful treatment for Ebola virus infection, which is currently under review”.

Regeneron co-founder, Dr George D Yancopoulos, said the firm’s thirty years of investment in “antibody technologies” “have hopefully prepared us for this critical time and to meet this important challenge”.

“Given the tremendous interest and concern around the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be providing regular and transparent updates on our discovery and development programs. I want to recognize our incredible team, which is working around the clock to develop needed solutions to this global health crisis,” Mr Yancopoulos added.

In 2017, Regeneron, supported by the IDA, announced a $100billion investment to its Limerick base.

It’s 400,000 sq ft state-of-the-art production facility is the largest scale bulk biological production facility in Ireland.