CSL Behring (OTC:CSLL.Y) and Takeda Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TAK) are joining forces with four other companies -- Biotest, Bio Products Laboratory, LFB, and Octapharma -- to develop a plasma-derived antibody treatment they hope will prove effective against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Rather than compete against each other, the alliance plans to develop one unbranded product.

"Unprecedented times call for bold moves," Julie Kim, president of Takeda's plasma-derived therapies business unit, said of the decision to cooperate on the treatment. "We invite companies and institutions focusing on plasma to support or join our alliance."

Hint, hint, EmergentBiosolutions (NYSE:EBS), which is developing plasma-based drugs of its own.

Patient and doctor behind a sign reading "caution, outbreak alert."

Image source: Getty Images.

Plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 contains antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the illness. Development of the new product will require a large number of recovered patients to donate plasma, so CSL, Takeda and the other companies are encouraging people who have gotten over the virus to find a plasma collection center where they can donate. That plasma will then be shipped to manufacturing plants where the antibodies can be purified. The Food and Drug Administration is working on a similar plasma-collection initiative in cooperation with the American Red Cross.

Separately, CSL and SAB Biotherapeutics are developing an antibody treatment called SAB-185 that will be fully manufactured, eliminating the need for plasma donors. Those companies hope to start a clinical trial of SAB-185 in COVID-19 patients as early as this summer.