Amgen teams up with Adaptive to both treat and prevent COVID-19

After The Wall Street Journal first broke the news this week, Amgen and new partner Adaptive Biotechnologies have confirmed they are the latest pharma-biotech duo joining forces against the pandemic.

The pair, which said it will “start work immediately,” will develop fully human neutralizing antibodies targeting the COVID-19-causing virus, SARS-CoV-2, to potentially prevent or treat the disease currently infecting a million people around the globe and showing little sign of slowing down, especially in Europe and the U.S.

The collab sees the pair tap into Adaptive’s immune medicine platform to seek out virus-neutralizing antibodies and work this alongside Amgen’s expertise in immunology and antibody therapy development.

In an unusual move (but not unusual in these weird times), both said they would “finalize financial details and terms in the coming weeks” and hadn’t as yet, given the speedy nature of the tie-up.

They join the growing list of pharmas and biotechs working on treatments and vaccines for the disease. Research has ramped up massively in the past month and covers everything from repurposed antivirals to RNAi tech and using antibodies from those who have recovered to fight new treatments. It’s the latter approach Amgen and Adaptive will be going after.

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In a statement, the pair explained that neutralizing antibodies defend healthy cells by interfering with the biological function of an invading virus. “These antibodies may be used therapeutically to treat someone currently fighting the disease and can be given to people who have heightened risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, such as healthcare workers,” the companies added.

Drilling down into the details of the pact, Adaptive will ramp up use of its high-throughput platform to “rapidly screen” the massive genetic diversity of the B-cell receptors from those that have recovered from COVID-19. This will help them quickly find antibodies they can select to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.

Then, in steps, Amgen will use its antibody engineering and drug development tech to select, develop and manufacture antibodies designed to bind to and neutralize SARS-CoV-2. Meanwhile, deCODE Genetics, an Amgen subsidiary, will provide genetic insights from patients who were previously infected with COVID-19. It's an unusual move for Amgen, which is better known for its work in cancer.

“Working with Adaptive and using their viral-neutralizing antibody platform will expedite our ability to bring a promising new medicine into clinical trials as quickly as possible,” said Robert Bradway, chairman and chief at Amgen.

“We are extremely motivated to join forces with our trusted partner, Amgen, to tackle this global health crisis,” added Chad Robins, CEO and co-founder of Adaptive Biotechnologies. “This partnership expands our drug discovery capabilities, demonstrating the power and versatility of our immune medicine platform.”