AstraZeneca on Tuesday received $23.7 million in funding from a US government agency to advance the development of antibody-based COVID-19 treatments as the British drugmaker ramps up efforts beyond its potential vaccine to combat the pandemic.
The funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is part of a collaboration deal between AstraZeneca, BARDA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to back the drugmaker’s development of a monoclonal antibody treatment against the new coronavirus.
The agreements, which are AstraZeneca’s second set of deals with authorities in the US, are expected to help the drugmaker move two COVID-19 antibody therapies it has licensed from researchers into clinical studies in the next two months.
Companies and governments are scrambling to bring a solution for the illness caused by the coronavirus to market as soon as possible, and many in the medical community believe antibody-based therapies hold great potential.
The US has already secured 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper vowed last month that the US military and other parts of the government would work with the private sector to produce a vaccine at scale by year-end.
AstraZeneca said it has licensed six monoclonal antibody candidates from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Two of those six prospective proteins will be tested as a combination approach for COVID-19.
Antibodies are generated in the body to fight off infection. Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies and can be isolated and manufactured in large quantities to treat diseases in patients.