Monday 13 July 2020

US pharma firm signs deal with Dutch researchers for coronavirus medicine

Illustration: Depositphotos.com

A big US pharmaceuticals company has partnered up with a Dutch researchers to develop a medicine from an antibody which can block infection by coronavirus.

Erasmus university researcher Frank Grosveld told NPO current affairs programme Dit is de Dag on Sunday evening that the company, which he declined to name, would carry out mass production of a medicine deriving from the antibody after initial trials on animals proved positive.

‘We have been negotiating for a while with several pharmaceuticals companies and have now reached agreement with one which will produce a medicine in line with protocols’ he said. ‘It will first have to be tested on a number of volunteers and then we can start treating patients.’

The company has said it will take five or six months before the medicine has been developed, Grosveld said.

The Dutch team, which is based in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, did receive a grant of ‘several hundred thousand euros’ to carry out the initial research, Grosveld said.

Asked if this meant that the Netherlands would get a cheap deal on the eventual medicine, Grosveld told the programme he hoped so, but he did not know.

In an earlier interview, team leader Berend Jan Bosch said that the patent would remain in the hands of the researchers, while the pharmaceuticals company in question will take a licence to the antibody.

Two uses

The antibody has been shown to both inhibit development of coronavirus in hamsters and to combat the disease in animals which have already been infected.

‘This mean that the antibody protects in living organisms, which means we can go through to the next stage in the research, with the US pharmaceuticals company,’ Grosveld said.

The team first went public with their finding in mid March. The antibody, a remnant of earlier research into coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, was found in a freezer at the Utrecht university lab for animal science.

The presence of the old material meant the team had a head start in the international scramble to find a medicine or vaccine to combat the virus which has killed 370,000 people worldwide so far.

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