One of the largest biotechnology companies in the country is tapping a longstanding partnership with another firm to develop treatments for Covid-19.

Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen said Thursday that it would work with Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies to develop fully human neutralizing antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to prevent or treat Covid-19. Financial details and terms will be finalized in the coming weeks, they said.

The companies have worked together for several years, particularly in oncology. Shares of Adaptive were up 2% on the Nasdaq late Thursday morning. Shares of Amgen were up 3.75%.

“After swiftly obtaining viral gene sequences from hundreds of patients, Amgen was motivated to use these insights and quickly pair them with our drug development and manufacturing capabilities,” Amgen CEO Robert Bradway said in a statement. “Working with Adaptive and using their viral-neutralizing antibody platform will expedite our ability to bring a promising new medicine into clinical trials as quickly as possible.”

Neutralizing antibodies work by interfering with a virus’ biological function so as to defend healthy cells. Adaptive plans to use its technology to screen the B-cell receptors of people who have recovered from Covid-19, thereby enabling the identification of tens of thousands of naturally occurring antibodies from survivors and the selection of those that can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Amgen will handle antibody engineering, drug development and manufacturing.

The two join a growing number of companies developing therapies and vaccines against the Covid-19 virus, which has already infected more than 216,000 people in the U.S., leading to more than 5,000 deaths.

Several drugmakers already have product candidates in the clinic. Gilead Sciences is developing an antiviral, remdesivir, while Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi are developing Kevzara (sarilumab). Moderna’s Phase I trial of the vaccine mRNA-1273 dosed its first patient last month, and companies like Vir Biotechnology are developing therapies of their own.

Amgen and Adaptive’s effort could benefit from a new program that the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday, the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, or CTAP, which is designed to redeploy some staff and streamline some processes in order to more rapidly bring new Covid-19 drugs into the clinic. The agency said CTAP has already enabled large reductions in the amount of time it takes for it to review clinical trial protocols and sign off on compassionate use programs.

Photo: mediaphotos, Getty Images

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