Wilson, Penn ink Regeneron pact to use gene therapy tech to deliver COVID-19 antibodies

Gene therapy pioneer Jim Wilson and the University of Pennsylvania are teaming up with Regeneron to help deliver its COVID-19 antibody cocktail using adeno-associated virus (AAV) tech in the hope of curbing infection via a nasal spray.

The antibody cocktail, made up of casirivimab and imdevimab, was given a speedy authorization by the FDA less than two weeks ago as a treatment for certain COVID-19 patients. But, keeping up with the fast pace of SARS-CoV-02 R&D, Regeneron is not resting on its laurels and now wants to find a quicker way of delivering its therapy while also working on it as a prophylactic.

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These antibodies are currently injected into patients, but Regeneron and Penn will use Wilson’s gene therapy know-how to attempt a nasal spray formulation using AAV vectors. The belief is that this could prevent infection with the virus using a technology typically used in high-tech gene therapies.

The group plans to study the safety and effectiveness of using AAV vectors to introduce the sequence of the cocktail’s virus-neutralizing antibodies directly to nasal epithelial cells and see whether it can help protect against the disease.

The first step is to finish preclinical trials; if successful, an IND will be sent off to the FDA for human trials.

Wilson’s team said it was hopeful that introducing the therapy via single dose of AAV will be able to produce similar protection Regeneron has seen for its cocktail, but “for potentially a longer duration.”

“Regeneron scientists specifically selected casirivimab and imdevimab to block infectivity of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and we have been encouraged by the promising clinical data thus far,” said Christos Kyratsous, Ph.D., vice president of research, infectious diseases and viral vector technologies at Regeneron.

“In the quest to use cutting-edge science to help end this disruptive and often very devastating disease, we are excited to explore alternate delivery mechanisms such as AAV that may extend the potential benefits of this investigational therapy to even more people around the world.”