Sorrento Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:SRNE) has received a $34 million government contract to manufacture COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies. Through its SmartPharm Therapeutics subsidiary, the company received a contract from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the development of a gene-encoded antibody that can prevent against and treat COVID-19.
Sorrento receives funding for Phase 2 Gene MAb studies
The contract’s scope entails the development of Gene Mab through second phase studies and will earn the initial company funding of $34 million. To expedite the approach, Sorrento is planning to manufacture the plasmid DNA-encode the COVID-19 neutralizing antibody STI-2020. Sorrento indicated that it could seek additional funding to support the COVID-19 Gene MAb program towards Emergency Use Authorization and large-scale production pending successful clinical trials.
The FDA is currently reviewing an Investigational New Drug application for STI-2020 as an intravenously delivered neutralizing antibody. The company indicated that the anticipated higher STI-2020 antibody potency makes it the right candidate for Gene MAb delivery against SARS-CoV-2. The agency is also reviewing filings of STI-2099 as an intranasal neutralizing antibody for COVID-19 treatment.
Contract to support the development of intramuscular injection Gene MAbs
Sorrento stated that the DARPA contract supports expedited development of intramuscular injection-delivered Gene MAbs neutralizing antibody. It enables the recipient to produce protective antibodies against COVID-19 within days of receiving the injection. The company said the approach would permit quick translation for fully characterized neutralizing antibodies into the clinic. Sorrento believes that this could be vital in responding to SARS-CoV-2 mutations that will emerge. The company also indicated that it would enable enhanced Gene Mab approach deployment as a prophylactic solution.
If the approach is successful, it will offer an alternative way of protecting populations in which vaccines are not effective such as immunocompromised or elderly. The company has a slew of investigational diagnostic tests in its pipeline and also preventive/treatment antibodies for COVID-19.
Following the announcement of the award of the contract, Sorrento shares jumped 16.67%. This year, Sorrento stock has surged 128% due to investor enthusiasm regarding potential COVID-19 treatment.