Lilly turns to Amgen to up COVID-19 antibody production

Amgen will provide manufacturing capacity to support scale-up of monoclonal antibody candidates being developed by Eli Lilly against COVID-19.

Financial details of the deal have not been divulged but bringing fellow Big Pharma firm Amgen on board will “significantly increase the supply capacity available for Lilly’s potential COVID-19 therapies,” the firms said in a statement.

“Increasing the manufacturing capacity for our neutralizing antibodies through this collaboration with Amgen is a crucial next step, and together we hope to be able to produce many millions of doses even next year,” Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer said.

Image: iStock/Andrei Stanescu

Lilly has several antibody candidates against the COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus, in development. The two most promising are LY-CoV555 being developed through a collaboration with AbCellera and LY-CoV016 licensed from Junshi Biosciences in May.

Just this week, Lilly announced positive interim data relating to the LY-CoV555 candidate and speaking at the Cantor Fitzgerald Healthcare Conference CFO Joshua Smiley announced the Amgen deal could lead to hundreds of millions of doses available for manufatcure.

“You can’t sort of create monoclonal antibody capacity or manufacturing facilities from scratch. It takes multiple years to build them,” he told investors.

“If the data continues to play out, the big thing will be how much can we or others supply. We announced this morning a partnership with Amgen around manufacturing supply of antibodies to try to ensure that for 2021 we’ve got multiple millions of doses available.”

Lilly has been conscious on capacity constraints in the race to develop coronavirus antibodies. Last month, the company said that while antibodies were being tested in combination, the main focus is developing a monotherapy to help maximize Lilly’s manufacturing network.

Amgen has until now remained relatively silent on the COVID-19 related front. But also speaking at a financial conference this week, CEO Bob Bradway revealed the firm is hoping to develop neutralizing antibodies of its own but is content in supporting others for now.

“We’re looking at both being a source of manufacturing expertise for some of the molecules that are in the first wave of development, but also developing some approaches that we think will be second wave antibody approaches that will help add to the field,” he told delegates at the Morgan Stanley’s 18th Annual Global Healthcare Conference.

Amgen’s manufacturing network includes sites in California, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Ireland, and the Netherlands. However, no details have been revealed as to which sites will support Lilly’s COVID projects.

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