CSL Behring joins pandemic R&D fight with antibody work

A patient with a surgical mask looks out a window.
(Getty/Nikola Stojadinovic)

Australia’s largest biotech company CSL says it is working on a plasma-based therapy for patients with more severe forms of COVID-19.

CSL Behring Australia, a subsidiary of CSL Limited, said today it would “begin immediate onshore development of an anti-SARS-CoV-2 plasma product with the potential to treat people with serious complications of COVID-19, particularly those whose illness is progressing towards the need for ventilation.”

The experimental therapy, known as COVID-19 Immunoglobulin, will be developed by CSL Behring Australia at its manufacturing facility near Melbourne in Broadmeadows, Victoria.

Like a growing number of biopharmas, including Eli Lilly and Takeda, CSL will create its therapy by collecting blood from people who have recovered and then tapping their virus-fighting antibodies to help those struggling to battle the disease.

The biotech said it needs blood plasma donations from about 800 people, which will be collected by the Australian Red Cross, in order to treat around 100 patients in the trial.

In the first phase of its testing, it said a “a small batch” of COVID-19 Immunoglobulin will be made and used to develop tests to detect the presence of the antibodies that fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.

Step two will involve a larger batch of COVID-19 Immunoglobulin that will be used in studies in Australia’s hospitals to asses safety. If all goes well, CSL “will seek to register COVID-19 Immunoglobulin with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to allow its ongoing supply in Australia,” it said in a statement.

CSL’s chief medical officer, Charmaine Gittleson, said: “With a 104 year heritage of serving Australia’s health needs, CSL is very pleased to be able to play a role in the response to the current pandemic. Our efforts will leverage the full spectrum of our onshore capabilities, from research and development, through to advanced manufacturing.”

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