CSL Behring Takes Multiple Shots at COVID-19


Shots on goal is a term pharmaceutical companies use to describe a number of assets aimed at a certain indication. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the industry together in multiple ways to battle the pandemic that has gripped the world and infected more than 6 million people. One of those companies making sure it’s taking as many shots as possible is CSL Behring.

Pennsylvania-based CSL Behring has developed a number of strategies to address COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in China and spread across the globe in a matter of months. One of the manners in which CSL Behring is attempting to make a difference in the pandemic is by harnessing the power of antibodies from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients.

The idea is that the plasma, referred to as convalescent plasma, contains antibodies against the virus and will be administered into patients who are critically ill. The use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic. To that end, CSL Behring joined a coalition known as the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, which a unique partnership among companies to develop CoVIg-19, a potential plasma-derived therapy for treating COVID-19.

Members of the alliance, which include CSL Behring, Takeda and others, as well as the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have partnered to develop an anti-SARS-CoV-2 polyclonal hyper-immune immunoglobulin medicine. The coalition and its “The Fight is In Us” campaign is seeking blood donations from thousands of people in the United States who have recovered from COVID-19. Their blood contains vital antibodies that could benefit others who have been infected by the novel coronavirus. But, there is a catch. The coalition must recruit COVID-19 survivors within two months of their recovery to ensure that their blood plasma contains a robust enough concentration of antibodies to have a positive effect, CSL Behring said.

The coalition is taking two different approaches to the use of convalescent plasma. The first is through direct transfusion of blood plasma, which is being conducted in clinical studies under authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in places like New York, where the virus has run rampant. The other approach is the development of a medicine known as a hyper-immune globulin (H-Ig), which is being manufactured now and will be studied in clinical trials this summer. Bill Mezzanotte, head of R&D at CSL Behring, and a co-leader of the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance, said hyper-immune globulin therapy has the potential to be one of the earliest treatment options for COVID-19.

CSL Behring saw first-hand the devastating effects of COVID-19. The company has a manufacturing facility in Wuhan, China, the origin of the coronavirus that has swept the globe. Since the beginning, the company has been assisting in the fight against COVID-19 in a number of ways including offering expertise, technologies, equipment and materials on a humanitarian basis.

In addition to that shot on goal through the coalition, CSL Behring Australia is developing an anti-SARS-CoV-2 plasma product for the Australian market with the potential to treat people with serious complications of COVID-19, particularly those whose illness is progressing towards the need for ventilation. The investigational product will be known as COVID-19 Immunoglobulin and is currently under development at the company’s advanced manufacturing facility in Australia.

Additionally, CSL Behring is collaborating with the University of Queensland in Australia to develop a vaccine candidate against the disease.

If those shots on the goal of developing therapeutics for COVID-19 were not enough, in May, CSL also partnered with SAB Biotherapeutics to develop a novel immunotherapy targeting COVID-19 called SAB-185. The therapeutic candidate, which is on track to enter the clinic this summer, is generated from SAB’s proprietary DiversitAb platform that produces large volumes of human polyclonal antibodies targeted specifically to SARS-CoV-2. The potential therapy would be produced without the need for blood plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. When the deal with SAB was announced, Mezzanotte said that more therapies would likely be needed than just the convalescent plasma. And, he noted, it will take time to develop.

“In the near-term, SAB Biotherapeutics’ novel immunotherapy platform provides a new and innovative solution to rapidly respond without the need for human plasma adding a different dimension to the industry-wide plasma-derived hyper-immune alliance effort we recently launched for the COVID-19 crisis. For future pandemics, SAB's platform may allow us to even more rapidly respond to patients' needs,” Mezzanotte said in a statement.

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