UK-based startup and British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca have signed a licensing agreement amounting to over $150 million. The agreement between the two pharmaceutical companies licenses RQ Biotechnology’s developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, or the COVID-19 virus.
With the licensing deal, AstraZeneca can now develop, build and sell RQ’s portfolio of antibodies against COVID-19 across the globe exclusively. The company also gained the first right of refusal to other candidates pursuing the same therapy.
RQ’s antibody portfolio consists of developing antibodies in the early stages of trials. This adds to AstraZeneca’s treatments against COVID that the company already possesses, such as Evusheld. Evusheld has already been approved against COVID-19 as pre-exposure prophylaxis. The drug is the first of its kind in terms of gaining approval from regulatory authorities.
AstraZeneca representative stressed that this agreement shows the commitment of the company against COVID-19, where the company continues to research and develop newer and more effective treatment drugs for COVID-19. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic loses traction, AstaraZenenca continues to believe in the value of developing treatments against the virus. It is possible that the company sees diminishing efficacy of currently developed therapy with the advent of newer variants of COVID-19.
RQ is currently led by veteran Hugo Fry, CCO of Imbria Pharma and former Sanofi executive. He explained that the company prioritizes the development of preventative and antibody-based therapies against infectious diseases, like COVID-19. Their goal is to focus on the development of antibodies that remain effective even if the infection mutates. He stated: “Our vision is to build on our successful debut with neutralizing antibody therapy for SARS-CoV-2 and develop innovative medicines to address current and evolving unmet needs in other viral infectious diseases, by combining our expertise and innovative excellence in core areas we have created a smarter approach to antibody generation making us uniquely positioned to deliver fast patient impact.”
RQ was developed with the help of LifeArc, which is a UK-based medical research charity, and the University of Oxford.
The question of the efficacy of the RQ-developed antibodies will remain to be seen against future variants of the virus. Another antibody-based therapy, Xevudy, has already had its Food and Drug Authority (FDA) emergency authorization revoked. Xevudy, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, was found not to hold its tested efficacy against the Omicron variant of the virus, leading to the FDA revoking its authorization.
Eli Lilly’s Regeneron and bamlanivimab/etesevimab were also restricted by the FDA for the same reason; a lack of suitable efficacy against the Omicron variant.
RQ does not solely focus on the development of preventive therapy for COVID-19 but also works on the development of broad-spectrum mAbs, focused on meeting the needs of patients belonging to the vulnerable division.
2 years ago the BioIndustry Association (BIA) developed the UK BIA Antibody task force, consisting of pharma industry leaders in order to help protect those individuals most at risk through the development of antibody treatments. The task force has been a considerable success, developing more than 600 novel antibody candidates in well under a year’s time.
Chief executive of OBE explained that with RQ’s work in the development of antibody treatment against COVID, the patients against which vaccines have remained ineffective can seek treatment. He has termed RQ as a UK success story.