Takeda, CSL-led plasma players band together on COVID-19

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. And in the race to create a plasma-based treatment for COVID-19, industry leaders have decided the best way is to join forces. Takeda and CSL Behring have set up an alliance to ramp up the development of such a treatment, joined by other plasma players hailing from the U.K., Switzerland, Germany and France.

The group will work on a treatment made from the plasma of patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Known as hyperimmune immunoglobulins, these drugs are made by purifying antibodies from donated plasma. Takeda had been working on TAK-888, a polyclonal hyperimmune globulin (H-IG) against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but the partners will now focus their efforts on a single, unbranded medicine.

Takeda will transition the work it’s already done for TAK-888 over to the group’s unbranded medicine, Julie Kim, president of Takeda’s plasma-derived therapies unit, told BiopharmaDive. Its partners, which include Biotest, Bio Products Laboratory, Octapharma and LFB in addition to CSL, will follow suit for any plasma treatments they had been working on for COVID-19.

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“Unprecedented times call for bold moves,” Kim said in a statement on Monday. “We collectively agree that by collaborating and bringing industry resources together, we could accelerate bringing a potential therapy to market as well as increase the potential supply.”

In addition to collaborating on clinical trials and manufacturing, the alliance will tackle a key hurdle in manufacturing a plasma-based treatment: collecting the plasma. To make treatments like CSL Behring’s Privigen, which is used to treat primary immunodeficiency among other conditions, hundreds or even thousands of people must donate their plasma. With members in the U.S., Australia and Europe, the alliance can reach many more people who have recovered from COVID-19.

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“This effort aims to accelerate a reliable, scalable and sustainable option for caregivers to treat patients suffering from the impact of COVID-19,” said Bill Mezzanotte, CSL Behring’s R&D chief. “In addition to pooling industry resources, we will also collaborate with government and academic efforts as a single alliance whenever we can, including important activities like clinical trials.”

A Bay Area startup is taking a different tack to solve the issue of plasma supply. GigaGen is using single-cell sequencing to “capture and recreate” libraries of antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients. The company can then choose which of those antibodies to turn into recombinant polyclonal antibody treatments in a method that does not rely on collecting vast amounts of plasma from many donors.

“This method is much more scalable than plasma-based methods, since one person’s B cell repertoire can be used to generate a drug that treats millions of patients,” the company said last month. It hopes to begin human trials in 2021.