Evotec nabs Gates Foundation cash for low-income country COVID-19 antibody work

German biotech-CRO hybrid Evotec has been handed a lump sum to help develop the next generation of antibodies to treat patients sick with COVID-19.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has handed over the cash, the amount of which has not been made public, for Evotec’s U.S. subsidiary Just (aka Just – Evotec Biologics) to seek out and work on new monoclonal antibody (mAb) drugs to help combat severe forms of COVID-19.

There are currently a number of antibodies in late-stage testing from Big Pharma, with some early data showing glimpses of promise as well as safety blips.

The use of antibody cocktails to treat the disease has become big news after President Donald Trump used two experimental antibodies from Regeneron at the start of the month, which he said helped “cure” him of COVID-19.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, now a Trump administration ally, was also given a similar cocktail from Eli Lilly this month when he was hospitalized with the virus.

Although behind in the development race, the purpose for the grant is for Evotec’s candidates to work against severe COVID-19 in “vulnerable populations in low and middle income countries,” which will likely be left behind in the development race as wealthier countries snap up new treatments and vaccines.

Through Just, Evotec will tap its software tool set known as Abacus to perform an in silico analysis of several lead candidate sequences of potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 mAbs.

This will tap into “key sequences” that can impact developability and make recommendations to boost the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody candidates. “In addition, Just – Evotec Biologics will perform cell line development for two lead molecules,” it said in a statement.

“It is an honour to participate with Therapeutics Accelerator in its response to address COVID-19. Abacus will enable a rapid evaluation of the antibody candidates to potentially improve their quality and deliver the lowest possible costs for development and manufacture,” said James Thomas, Ph.D., executive vice president and global head of biotherapeutics at Just – Evotec Biologics.