SAB's clinical trials will start very soon.
Athersys is working on a cell therapy treatment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) caused by COVID-19. It's already in Phase III clinical development.
Collaboration is critical
The speakers agree: collaboration and partnership has allowed these treatments to move so quickly.
"As a small biotech it's important for us that we have a network of collaborators that we're working with, and in particular being able to work with multinational companies as well," said Sullivan.
"We are thinking big in terms of the scale of our production," said Dr. Scangos.
The scale of the need before a vaccine, and even after a vaccine, could be very large, added Dr. Yancopoulos, which is why treatments are so important.
While speakers expressed some differences in terms of what types of antibodies and treatments have the best chances, they agreed: there's a lot of precedent, and a lot of emerging data, to show that the antibody approach can serve as a bridge to a vaccine, and benefit those who are already infected.
The bottom line? The science is robust!
Pivoting to COVID
Phyllis Arthur asked how companies were able to pivot from non-COVID research to COVID-19. Athersys' Bokkelen said it wasn't necessarily a pivot, but applying their specific expertise and approaches they were already working on to the new disease.
Most companies aren't looking for a return on investment; they are looking to make a difference, he continued. There won't be a single magic bullet; all of these innovations complement one another. And the approaches we're talking about today have different points of intervention.
Diversity in COVID-19 trials
Here's a good thread from STAT's Kate Sheridan:
How are you working with regulators?
Takeda is doing a single clinical study, a single master protocol, and has been very transparent with FDA. Through that process, they have been able to accelerate the timeframe.
SAB's Sullivan says it's been critical to think of ways they can do "multiple things in parallel" to move as quickly as possible.
Dr. Yancopoulous said the FDA has been "extraordinary" in dealing with the pandemic and accelerating "without cutting corners," as they're also dealing with other diseases, too. "There's not unlimited capacity out there. Everyone is making choices. I think the FDA is doing a great job," but other things might suffer.
Dr. Scangos added that the agencies have done "a remarkable job with balancing speed with safety," and have not done anything to jeopardize patient safety but have also recognized the urgency. "I'm impressed," he said. "Our interactions have been incredibly positive.
What's the key thing you've learned working on this pandemic that will help us respond faster to the next one?
Collaboration is foundational, said Takeda's Kim. We learned so much after SARS, but we didn't put that information into play as this pandemic emerged. "What I hope that we can apply and learn beyond this is once we get through to the other side of this pandemic is that we don't have short-term memory loss." We need to collaborate and share.
SAB's Sullivan agreed: "Shame on us if we don't learn lessons."
Athersys' Bokkelen said this is the most vivid illustration of how capable, committed, and passionate the industry and health care workers are. "The broad commitment we all share is really remarkable and shouldn't be overlooked or forgotten."
Regeneron's Dr. Yancopolous said society has forgotten the importance of science, but we can use this moment to remind everyone of the difference science can make and deliver solutions for the world, "that can result in an entire change of how we're viewed as an industry, but more importantly how science and technology is viewed."
The final word from Dr. Scangos: "You can actually function efficiently working from home."