Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Adaptive Biotechnologies (NASDAQ:ADPT) announced on Thursday that they will collaborate to develop a therapy targeting novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. Their joint effort will combine Amgen's immunology expertise with Adaptive's platform for identifying virus-neutralizing antibodies.

Start now, finalize details later

Usually when two biotechs decide to partner on the development of a new drug, they spend time up front to work out all of the details of the arrangement -- especially the financial terms. Because of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Amgen and Adaptive stated that they will "begin work immediately and finalize financial details and terms in the coming weeks."

Gloved hand holding a vial of blood next to a microscope

Image source: Getty Images.

One reason why the two companies were able to start now without having all the terms finalized is that they've worked together in the past. In 2017, Amgen and Adaptive began collaborating on the development of a test for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) to better manage and monitor the disease. They expanded their partnership in 2019 to use Adaptive's next-generation sequencing assays for all of Amgen's blood cancer drugs and pipeline candidates.

What's next

While financial details are worked out, Adaptive's scientists will use the company's platform to screen antibodies from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. The goal of this effort is to identify the specific antibodies that neutralize the novel coronavirus. Amgen's deCODE Genetics subsidiary in Iceland will also contribute any genetic insights found from individuals who have been infected by the virus. The big biotech will then develop and manufacture the antibodies to potentially be evaluated in clinical studies targeting COVID-19.