You’d be forgiven for thinking the bustle of activity near Interstate 90’s Exit 9 in East Greenbush — where construction trailers form a long line close to the highway — has something to do with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ emergency authorization to produce an antibody “cocktail” to fight COVID-19.
But the steel girders and new facades at the site are part of a multi-year effort to create more space locally for the company, which has found success in developing and producing drugs to treat heart and eye conditions, cancers and inflammatory and infectious diseases.
That includes the “cocktail” of two virus-neutralizing antibodies, initially dubbed REGN-COV2, to combat COVID-19 in adults and children over age 12 — which President Donald Trump received in October when he announced he tested positive for the disease.
Regeneron, headquartered in Westchester County, has long had a presence in Rensselaer County. It purchased additional acreage off Exit 9 in 2016, where construction of nearly 800,000 square feet of warehouse, manufacturing and lab space, plus a 1,000-space parking garage and electrical substation, began in earnest two years ago.
Known as the Tempel Lane Campus, it complements Regeneron’s Red Mill Campus a few miles away off Columbia Turnpike. There, Regeneron is close to finishing work on additional lab/office space and parking.
Both sites will be used to produce 300,000 doses of the antibody cocktail by the end of January — the most that could be made quickly — which the U.S. government underwrote and will allocate for distribution.
After that, a spokeswoman said this week, an agreement between Regeneron and Swiss biotech giant Roche will kick in to expand availability worldwide. Together, the companies expect to produce at least 2 million treatment doses annually, she said.
The casirivimab/imdevimab combination cocktail, which is delivered intravenously, is designed to mimic what the body’s immune system does in fighting a virus. It’s intended for people confirmed to have COVID-19 who are at risk of becoming severely ill and likely to be hospitalized.
Even with the emergency use authorization given by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which permits treatments for life-threatening diseases when approved alternatives are not available, Regeneron will be required to continue clinical trials on the cocktail’s safety and effectiveness.
Regeneron recognized early on that COVID-19 was “the big one … we’ve all been worried about,” CEO and co-founder Leonard Schleifer wrote in a company blog post when the FDA authorization came just before Thanksgiving.
Drawing on its success in developing an approved treatment for Ebola, Schleifer wrote, Regeneron went to work to use the same kind of “unique antibody technology” to tackle the novel coronavirus. “At the very least, we had to try.”
The result was the casirivimab/imdevimab combination, which was developed after evaluating antibodies produced by company-grown mice that have been genetically modified to have human immune systems and antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]