The drug – a combination of three monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that bind proteins on the surface of the Ebola virus – will be made in mammalian cell lines using Regeneron’s VelociGene and VelocImmune technologies.
VelociGene is a DNA editing technology, while VelocImmune is a genetically modified rodent strain that produces antibodies that combine mouse constant regions with human variable domains.
The technologies are designed to accelerate antibody development and production according to spokesman Alex Bowie, who told us they “allow for faster modelling and antibody development than traditional methods.”
Regeneron claims to be able to develop antibody drug candidates in nine months.
She said while “the Ebola outbreak seems to be currently under control, but as we’ve seen, these infectious diseases have the ability to re-emerge and spread rapidly” adding that our “technologies could potentially be applied to other emerging diseases in the future, and has already been used preclinically in MERS.”
Under the contract – granted by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – Regeneron could receive a further $11.3m to support the production of alternative anti-Ebola mAbs.
Bowie told us “The benefit of the deal is the furthered potential to help patients in need. BARDA has been a leader in responding to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, making them an experienced and effective partner.”
In turn, BARDA Director Robin Robinson praised Regeneron’s development efforts.
“Regeneron’s technology facilitated the discovery and development of this monoclonal antibody therapeutic candidate in real time in just nine months as compared to the normal development cycle of several years.”
He also hinted at other future applications, adding that the Regeneron “technology may have potential applications in future public health responses.”
The Ebola outbreak that began in 2014 has killed more than 11,000 people with Guniea, Liberia and Sierra Leone being the hardest hit.
The spread of the disease has slowed with - according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) - only two new confirmed cases since September 1.