US-based biotechnology firm Amgen has entered into a partnership with Adaptive Biotechnologies to develop a therapeutic that could prevent or treat COVID-19 (coronavirus) disease.

Amgen and Adaptive have signed a memorandum of understanding to commence work immediately and the parties plan to implement a collaboration and licence agreement.

Specific terms of the agreement are yet to be divulged. The companies will finalise financial terms in the upcoming weeks.

Under the terms of the agreement, Amgen and Adaptive will identify and develop fully human neutralising antibodies that act on SARS-CoV-2.

As part of the collaboration, Adaptive’s immune medicine platform to discover virus-neutralising antibodies will combine with Amgen’s immunology and antibody therapy development expertise.

Amgen stated neutralising antibodies safeguard healthy cells by hindering the biological function of the virus.

These antibodies can help treat infected patients and can also be given to people who have a high risk of exposure to the virus, such as healthcare workers.

Amgen chairman and CEO Robert Bradway said: “After swiftly obtaining viral gene sequences from hundreds of patients, Amgen was motivated to use these insights and quickly pair them with our drug development and manufacturing capabilities.

“Working with Adaptive and using their viral-neutralising antibody platform will expedite our ability to bring a promising new medicine into clinical trials as quickly as possible.”

Adaptive’s platform will be used to screen the genetic diversity of B-cell receptors

Adaptive’s platform will be employed to screen the genetic characteristics of B-cell receptors obtained from people who have recovered from the coronavirus disease.

The approach will help identify several naturally occurring antibodies to select those that neutralise the virus.

Amgen will use its antibody engineering and drug development expertise to choose, develop and manufacture antibodies against the virus. 

Amgen’s subsidiary deCODE Genetics will offer genetic insights from previously infected COVID-19 patients.

Adaptive Biotechnologies CEO and co-founder Chad Robins said: “This partnership expands our drug discovery capabilities, demonstrating the power and versatility of our immune medicine platform.”