What Happened: SmartPharm Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Sorrento, announced a contract award by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for developing a gene-encoded antibody, or Gene Mab, that would prevent as well as treat COVID-19 infection. The scope of the contract will be the development through Phase 2 studies and would fetch the company up to $34 million in initial funding.
To facilitate the approach, Sorrento plans to produce plasmid DNA encoding the SARS-COV-2 neutralizing antibody STO-2020.
The FDA is currently reviewing an IND for STI-2020 as an intravenously-delivered neutralizing antibody.
"The expected higher potency of the STI-2020 antibody makes it an ideal candidate for Gene MAb delivery against COVID-19," Sorrento said.
Why It's Important: The contract supports the accelerated development of a Gene MAbs neutralizing antibody that can be delivered by a simple intramuscular injection, enabling the recipient to produce the protective antibody, potentially within days of the injection, Sorrento said.
If successful, it could provide an alternative method of protecting populations where vaccines do not work as well, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.
Sorrento has in its pipeline a slew of investigational diagnostic tests and treatment/preventative antibody treatments for COVID-19.
What's Next: Sorrento said it will seek further funding to support the COVID Gene MAb program toward emergency use authorization approval and large-scale manufacturing, pending successful clinical studies.
Sorrento shares were up 13.91% to $7.86 at publication time.
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