While we here in Westchester have been following along as local pharmaceuticals giant Regeneron developed its novel double-antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 this past year, the company has recently entered the national spotlight as a frontrunner in the race for a “cure,” with the recently COVID-positive President Trump calling the treatment a “miracle” and releasing a video in which he directly attributes his speedy recovery to the company.
“I went in, I wasn’t feeling so hot, and within a very short period of time they gave me Regeneron,” Trump says in the video. “It’s called Regeneron. And other things too, but I think this was the key. They gave me Regeneron. It was, like, unbelievable. I felt good immediately.”
A MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT! pic.twitter.com/uhLIcknAjT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Unfortunately, not all the news is good for Regeneron. While the president’s personal success with the therapy sent the company’s stock price soaring to nearly record highs, the researcher was also named in a patent lawsuit alleging that it failed to properly license intellectual property intrinsic to the testing and development of its REGN-COV2 antibody cocktail.
Allele Biotectnology & Pharmaceuticals Inc., a San Diego-based company, has filed suit against Regeneron, as well as Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech over the use of its proprietary mNeonGreen protein. The fluorescent protein is commonly used in tests determining antibody and vaccine efficacy, and in this case, the company alleges, was used by Regeneron without a license despite multiple attempts by Allele to broker one.
“In no way does Allele want to prohibit, or slow down development of vaccines or therapeutics discovered using this technology,” Allele CEO and Founder Jiwu Wang Ph.D. says in a statement. “Our goal is to have these companies recognize, as many others have before them, the hard work that went in to developing this technology and to respect our intellectual property.”
Executive Director of Licensing and Business Development for Allele Dan Catron succinctly states the reason for litigation: “The purpose of these lawsuits is to maintain Allele’s patent rights and to ensure that an agreement can be put in place to protect the rights of current and future licensees.”
Despite the suit, Regeneron is pushing forward with its REGN-COV2 treatment, applying this week for emergency use authorization from the FDA, following successful trials in reducing symptoms within non-hospitalized patients. As a result, Regeneron stock is currently trading steading above $600 a share, up more than 75% since February.
Two people seeing a windfall from their portfolios are, coincidentally, Regeneron executives. Board member Joseph Goldstein and Senior VP and head of commercial Marion McCourt both exercised stock options after markets opened on Monday to soaring REGN prices. The sale of stocks netted Goldstein around $740,000, while McCourt netted about $260,000 — $1 million in total.
A spokesperson for Regeneron has stated the sale had been pre-planned, and specifically was executed through a mechanism designed to avoid accusations of insider trading. This has, predictably, done little to curb Internet uproar and allegations of exactly that.