The logo of Swiss drugmaker Roche at its headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, Jan. 30, 2020. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)
Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche joined forces Wednesday with Regeneron to scale up supply of the US firm's REGN-COV2 medicine -- potentially both a prevention and treatment for COVID-19 infection.
The two companies are teaming up to develop, manufacture and distribute the investigational combination of two antiviral antibodies.
The product "could provide a much-needed treatment option for people already experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and also has the potential to prevent infection in people exposed to the virus", Roche said in a statement.
The medicine is being tested on humans in clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19, and for the prevention of the new coronavirus in household contacts of infected individuals.
If it proves safe and effective and regulatory approvals are granted, Regeneron will distribute the product in the United States, while Roche will do the same in the rest of the world.
"We are excited about the potential for one medicine to serve both as a treatment for those infected, as well as protection for people exposed to the virus. REGN-COV2 could be a critical line of defence against the COVID-19 pandemic," said Roche Pharmaceuticals chief executive Bill Anderson.
The collaboration should more than triple the current supply capacity of REGN-COV2, said Roche, with the potential for further expansion.
Regeneron scientists designed REGN-COV2 specifically to block the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.
In technical terms, the two virus-neutralising antibodies that form REGN-COV2 "bind non-competitively to the critical receptor binding domain of the virus's spike protein, which diminishes the ability of mutant viruses to escape treatment".