By Manojna Maddipatla
(Reuters) – The U.S. government signed a $450 million contract with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc for its potential COVID-19 antibody cocktail, the drug maker said on Tuesday.
The agreement, the first by the Trump administration to support a therapy, comes under the government’s “Operation Warp Speed” program that is aimed at faster distribution of vaccines and treatments to fight the new coronavirus when trials are successful.
The United States is also funding manufacturing and several trials for potential vaccines and has rushed to secure billions of doses of the vaccines being tested by companies around the world.
Earlier in the day, Novavax Inc received a $1.6 billion grant, the biggest award yet from Operation Warp Speed, to cover testing, manufacturing and sale of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Under the contract with Regeneron, signed with the HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the Department of Defense, the doses manufactured under the project will be owned by the federal government.
Regeneron’s cocktail, REGN-COV2, contains an antibody made by the company and another isolated from recovered COVID-19 patients. Rivals Eli Lilly and AbbVie are also pursuing antibody therapies for the respiratory illness.
REGN-COV2 is being tested separately for both preventing and treating COVID-19, with a late-stage prevention trial being run jointly with the National Institutes of Health.
The agreement covers a fixed number of bulk lots intended to be completed in the fall of 2020, Regeneron said.
A range of 70,000 to 300,000 potential treatment doses or 420,000 to 1,300,000 prevention doses are expected to be available from these lots, with initial doses to be ready as early as end of summer.
The U.S. government would make the doses available to Americans at no cost, if EUA or product approval is granted, Regeneron said.
Shares of Regeneron were up 1.4% at $636.11. They have risen 67% so far this year.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)