Responding to a request from a Chinese biotechnology company working closely with officials in China, Medarex, Inc. and the Massachusetts Biologic Laboratories (MBL) of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have shipped to Beijing a sample of the fully human antibody to SARS developed by Medarex and MBL/UMMS.
The antibody was sent to Sinovac Biotech Co., Ltd. for preclinical testing against SARS strains used for their vaccine and the control strain from previous cases in China.
In response to the recent outbreak of SARS, and to assist with research on potential therapies, Beijing-based Sinovac submitted this idea to the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration and received support to test the Medarex/MBL/UMMS antibody before any further action.
Sinovac plans to conduct preclinical tests to determine the antibody's effectiveness in neutralizing the strains of the SARS virus. "When faced with an outbreak of a deadly infectious disease like SARS, those with a public health mission need to move fast," said Donna Ambrosino, MD, Director of the MBL and a Professor of Pediatrics at UMass Medical School. "When the request was made to us, we were able to ship the antibody within hours." Donald L. Drakeman, President and CEO of Medarex, Inc., agreed, saying Medarex was ready to help. "We hope that our fully human antibody technology can be useful in addressing this important public health issue," he said.
The antibody developed by scientists at MBL, Medarex and at UMass Medical School's Worcester Campus, is the result of an accelerated research effort funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health) that was launched in April of 2003 following the first global outbreak of SARS. As previously announced, MBL/UMMS partnered with Medarex to use Medarex's UltiMAb(TM) technology to generate fully human antibodies with the potential to treat SARS. Under the terms of the agreement, Medarex and MBL expect to share equally the full development costs of any antibody products as well as any future revenues arising from these products. SARS, a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, was first reported in Asia in February 2003, and over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
According to the World Health Organization, during the SARS outbreak of 2003, a total of 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS; of these, 774 died. The SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained; however, it is expected that the disease could re-emerge periodically in a cycle similar to the common flu.