Regeneron (REGN) has apparently made some significant progress as it drives toward discovering and developing a multi-antibody cocktail meant to be administered either as a prophylactic agent ahead of exposure or as treatment if already infected.
"Ever hear of VelocImmune Mice? No? First you had to hear of Regeneron, which if you somehow make a living in science or in the financial markets, you may have. Otherwise, maybe not. These are mice that have been genetically modified to have themselves a human immune system, which gives the firm a head start as it goes about this important work. From these mice, the firm has identified hundreds of virus neutralizing antibodies. Antibodies from actual humans who have recovered from Covid-19 have also been recovered and isolated as well in order to maximize the firm's broad pool of prospects for use.
The firm has announced that from this pool the top two antibodies have been selected for this already mentioned "cocktail" treatment for this virus. The two selected have already demonstrated an affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that provides a path for the virus to invade an individual.
The firm's idea is to use this advanced technology to prepare manufacturing ready cell lines so that clinical scale production can start immediately. The firm adds that it is working with BARDA (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) which is an office within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to find ways to boost capacity.
Separately, Regeneron announced in collaboration with Sanofi (SNY) , a pharmaceutical headquartered in France, the initiation of U.S. clinical trials that will evaluate the candidate Kevzara in severely ill patients already hospitalized with a Covid-19 infection. This will be a two part trial involving 400 patients, the first part to evaluate the impact of the drug on patient needs related to fever as well as the need for supplemental oxygen. The second part would be aimed at longer term cases that involve oxygen provided through mechanical ventilation. Under the agreement, which has still not been finalized, Regeneron will lead the work in the U.S., and Sanofi will lead elsewhere.
On these developments, Regeneron CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer appeared on the Fox Business Network on Tuesday morning. Schleifer said, "One has to come up with something rapidly that might attack the virus. That's the news today." He then added... "We are scaling up as fast as we can. We hope to be in clinical testing sometime in June." While encouraging, that still means that for a while, we are still on our own.
My Own Cocktail
This morning, in my Market Recon column at Real Money and Real Money Pro, I discussed progress being made by Moderna (MRNA) , a firm that has already gone into clinical testing for a potential messenger RNA based vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, as well as progress made at BioNTech (BNTX) that is maybe a month behind in getting to trial if all goes well but is also working with partners in China and possibly Pfizer (PFE) in the U.S. if it can get there from a regulatory perspective. Is there room for these three names in my "virus group"?
Well, Moderna is already there, along with Gilead Sciences (GILD) , Teledoc (TDOC) , and Veeva Systems (VEEV) as well as a number of other plays outside of the medical/life sciences field, so I am pretty well covered. That said, I could definitely see bringing a few shares (not too many) of Regeneron on board the next time the algorithms include that name in a broad selloff. Not before. Oh, and every virus related investment needs to include Clorox (CLX) at this point. Just my opinion... but folks are learning to worry about germs again. That behavior will not die nearly as quickly as I hope this virus does.