From the start of the pandemic, we understood it would take extraordinary mobilization and collaboration across the entire healthcare ecosystem to defeat COVID-19. Strong partnerships have always been a cornerstone of our work at Genentech – approximately half of our medicines are the result of successful collaborations with companies and institutions around the world. The pandemic has drastically altered the scale and urgency needed to develop and distribute COVID-19 treatments and diagnostic tests, leading us to collaborate in new ways and to work at speeds we never could have imagined.
While we currently don't make vaccines, we realized we could contribute in the fight against COVID-19 in other ways: our scientific knowledge and research expertise of infectious diseases and in antibody-based therapeutics as well as our skilled workforce and specialized manufacturing capabilities. Combined with our parent company Roche, our global biologics manufacturing is among the largest in the world, as is our global supply chain and distribution network.
Early in the pandemic, we decided to share our expertise to our industry peers. We quickly established a dedicated team who explored more than 200 potential COVID-19 partnering opportunities. Keeping our focus on patients and society, we joined forces with three companies – including some industry competitors that we may not have collaborated with before the pandemic. “We all came to the table open-minded and agreed to work together in ways that we normally wouldn't," said Patrick Schleck, Global Head of Business Development for Immunology & Infectious Diseases.
We partnered with Gilead to quickly set up a combination study evaluating two medicines in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. We also teamed up with Regeneron and Atea Pharmaceuticals to significantly ramp up the development, manufacturing and distribution of their investigational antiviral medicines – all while continuing to advance our own pipeline and bring our essential medicines to people who depend on them.
Typically, partnerships are struck after months of face-to-face meetings with deal teams on both sides. Given the urgency of the situation, our normal timelines for completing partnerships didn't apply. Using virtual technology and creative mindsets, we were able to forge these COVID-19 partnerships in record time.
With Regeneron, we began the enormous task of preparing our facilities to produce their investigational antibody cocktail medicines even before the ink was dry on our contract. We already had the experience of moving one of our own medicines, which was also being evaluated as a potential treatment option for COVID-19, to a bigger manufacturing site (known as a tech transfer). This move became the blueprint for quickly ramping up production of Regeneron’s medicine.
Through this experience, we’ve explored new ways in which we can work together with external innovators to deliver safely, effectively and efficiently on what the world needs most – groundbreaking innovation for patients across all therapeutic areas.
Hear Genentech’s CEO, Alexander Hardy, discuss the importance of partnerships in the fight against COVID-19. Courtesy of The Washington Post.