AstraZeneca is taking another step to develop antibodies to Covid-19.
After collaborating with researchers from Vanderbilt University to develop the long-acting antibody combination now known as Evusheld, AstraZeneca is focusing this time on the newly launched RQ Biotechnology, a British-based outfit with roots at the University of Oxford and charitable medical research organization LifeArc.
The pharma giant struck with a $ 157 million deal – plus royalties – to acquire worldwide licenses for a range of early-stage antibodies targeted at SARS-CoV-2.
Even as vaccine sales decline, AstraZeneca has talked about Evusheld as a potential source of long-term revenue. In addition to being a treatment option, the antibody combination is seen as a key tool to protect immunocompromised patients who are unable to respond to the virus themselves.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of immunotherapies, including the use of monoclonal antibodies to protect vulnerable patients who are unable to respond adequately to vaccination alone,” said Iskra Reic, AstraZeneca’s EPP for vaccines and immunotherapies. “Scientific innovation is accelerating rapidly, and this agreement reflects our continued commitment to discovering and developing new drugs to help prevent and treat infectious diseases, including Covid-19.”
For RQ Bio, the agreement starts a much longer journey of finding new antibody treatments and prevention of viral infectious diseases.
“By combining our expertise and innovative expertise in core areas, we have created a smarter approach to antibody generation, making us uniquely positioned to deliver rapid patient response,” said CEO Hugo Fry, a Sanofi veterinarian who most recently served as Commercial Director at cardiometabolic- focused biotech Imbria.
RQ Bio boasts an experienced group of scientific advisors, including co-founders Mike Westby, Paul Kellam and Jane Osbourn. Oxfords Gavin Screaton and LifeArcs Clare Terlouw will also continue to support the startup.