The US Department of Justice said Thursday it would waive its usual antitrust restrictions for companies trying to work together to speed antibody-based treatments for coronavirus.
It said it would not challenge proposed efforts by Eli Lilly and Company, AbCellera Biologics, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Genentech, and GlaxoSmithKline to share information, including about manufacturing facilities and raw materials, to make monoclonal antibodies to treat or prevent Covid-19.
“The demand for monoclonal antibodies targeting Covid-19 is likely to exceed what any one firm could produce on its own,” the DOJ said in a statement. “Moreover, waiting until regulators approve specific treatments before scaling up manufacturing might delay access to these potentially life-saving medicines by many months, which adversely could affect the nation’s efforts to fight Covid-19.”
More details on the science and law: Monoclonal antibodies are natural or lab-made immune system proteins that home in on and neutralize a single specific target on a virus, or a cell. They’re being made in this case to try to stop coronavirus from infecting cells in people’s bodies.
Antitrust restrictions are meant, in part, to stop companies from coming together to fix prices or to make agreements on carving up markets and forcing out competitors.
The DOJ said the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies had agreed not to do this.
“Among other competitive safeguards, they have committed that they will not exchange information related to the prices of those treatments or the costs of inputs for or production of those treatments,” the DOJ said.