Evotec secures grant to evaluate antibody drugs for COVID-19

BERLIN (Reuters) - German biotech company Evotec EVTG.DE said on Monday it had received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help identify and develop potential monoclonal antibody (mAbS) drugs for the prevention of severe COVID-19.

Several drugmakers are testing antibody treatments for COVID-19 to help patients’ immune systems fight the coronavirus that causes the disease which has killed more than 1 million people worldwide.

Antibody treatments have come into focus after a study showed anti-viral drug remdesivir, one of the few drugs being used to treat people with COVID-19, has little or no impact on a patient’s chances of surviving COVID-19.

Evotec said the grant would enable its Seattle-based subsidiary Just to use its software, called Abacus, to analyse several lead candidate sequences of potent mAbs, which have been provided to the foundation by academic medical centres around the world.

“Abacus will enable a rapid evaluation of the antibody candidates to potentially improve their quality and deliver the lowest possible costs for development and manufacture,” said James Thomas, global head of biotherapeutics at Just.

Evotec did not disclose the size of the grant. It said it would also perform cell line development for two lead molecules.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made versions of proteins naturally produced by the immune system in response to invading viruses or other pathogens.

Antibody treatment has also come under the spotlight after U.S. President Donald Trump was treated with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' REGN.O antibody drug earlier this month.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Edmund Blair