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How Regeneron's Coronavirus Antibody Treatment Differs From Convalescent Plasma

Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN) is developing REGN-COV2, a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies designed to bind the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In this Fool Live video, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina and longtime Motley Fool contributor Brian Orelli talk about Regeneron's new treatment, which was given to President Trump. They also discuss the difference between monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma.

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Corinne Cardina: Let's dive into some of these stocks, starting with Regeneron. Regeneron is the one that Trump has said he's really excited about. This is a 32-year-old company, a biotech company. They're based in Tarrytown, New York. It's a $64 billion market cap. They do have seven FDA-approved medicines and a pretty extensive existing pipeline. Regeneron's technology produces fully human antibodies, and it's conducting very significant genetic sequencing efforts. The company had $1.9 billion in revenue in the second quarter of the fiscal year 2020. That's a 24% increase year over year. Their investigational antibody cocktail that they call REGN-COV2, this is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies. Regeneron is conducting a seamless phase 1, 2, 3 trial. That actually includes four different trials. Its antibody cocktail has not yet received an emergency-use authorization from the FDA, but it has requested it. In the video that Trump tweeted on Tuesday, he said he's pushing for this authorization. He calls the treatment a cure and says, "I've authorized it, but we're waiting on that news from the actual FDA." The company said last night that it had submitted this request. Just to start off, get our arms around this antibody treatment, Brian. Can you explain the difference between an antibody treatment cocktail that is produced by Regeneron in an infusion of convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients? What's the difference?

Brian Orelli: The difference is where it's made. The antibodies from the convalescent patients is actually made in the patients themselves that have recovered. You're taking the plasma out of the patients and concentrating the antibodies and then giving those to the patient. Regeneron's antibodies are made in a laboratory, so they're expressed in some mammalian cell line in an incubator. Then it gets grown up and then purified out of the cells there. The difference is that for the plasma, each batch is going to be slightly different because it's coming from different patients, where Regeneron's treatment, you know exactly what those two antibodies are and where exactly they bind on the virus.

Corinne Cardina: OK. It's more reliable and more standardized. Can you also scale it and get more of it? You don't have to depend on people coming in to give blood?

Brian Orelli: Yeah. I mean, it's giving plasma, so [...] giving blood.

Corinne Cardina: Sure.

Brian Orelli: Yeah. In theory, we know how to make antibodies. It's trivial at this point to manufacturing antibodies. The biggest problem here is the amount of reactor space that we have. We have to stop making other drugs to make this new drug or build a new plant, but obviously, that takes years. So I think that's the limiting factor there in terms of manufacturing, it is just finding enough reactor space and maybe cutting back on making other antibody drugs so that you have the reactors to make these antibody drugs.

Corinne Cardina: There's an opportunity cost there. Got you.

Brian Orelli, PhD, Corinne Cardina, and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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