Pharmaceutical companies and government agencies working together is an increasingly common theme in the search for effective COVID-19 treatments. On Tuesday, AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) licensed coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies from Vanderbilt University, and signed agreements with two U.S. federal agencies that will help test and manufacture them.
Vanderbilt's COVID-19 research effort is in turn funded by four U.S. government agencies through dozens of sub-agencies and institutes, among them the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
AstraZeneca has licensed six antibodies from a library of more than 1,500 that have been shown in a laboratory setting to interact with SARS-CoV-2 and prevent it from entering host cells. The company is currently running animal tests to determine the most promising pair for advancement to clinical-stage trials in people.
AstraZeneca says it should be ready to begin human trials with a pair of antibodies within the next two months, and funding those studies should be a breeze. The company also signed an interagency agreement with DARPA and BARDA to support its COVID-19 treatment development effort.
Once AstraZeneca has selected a pair of antibody candidates for clinical trials, the agencies that helped Vanderbilt researchers isolate them will continue funding their development. Specifically, DARPA and BARDA will help Astra run its trial and manufacture the selected antibodies to be tested.
In addition to its push to develop antibody treatments for COVID-19, AstraZeneca is also one of the companies leading the charge to develop a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The company's vaccine candidate, AZD1222, has been licensed from Oxford University, and is already in a phase 2/3 clinical trial with around 10,000 volunteers.