AbbVie Taps Harvard University for Viral Infection Research Partnership

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AbbVie and Harvard University entered into a $30 million collaborative research alliance to develop therapies against emergent viral infections, with a focus on those caused by coronaviruses and by viruses that lead to hemorrhagic fever.

The collaboration was struck while the world continues to grapple with a global pandemic from SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 23 million people, including more than 5 million in the United States. Illinois-based AbbVie and Harvard Medical School aim to integrate fundamental biology into the preclinical and clinical development of new therapies for viral diseases that address a variety of therapeutic modalities.

George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School, said COVID-19 and the manner in which the pandemic ground the world to something of a halt, is a reminder of how important it is to prepare for the next public health crisis. It’s also a reminder of how important collaborations across disciplines and institutions are to defeating the next pandemic.

Michael Severino, president of AbbVie, said collaborations with top academic institutions like Harvard Medical School, which has led several large-scale, coordinated research efforts launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key element to having a strong R&D organization.

“There is much to learn about viral diseases and the best way to treat them. By harnessing the power of collaboration, we can develop new therapeutics sooner to ensure the world is better prepared for future potential outbreaks,” Severino said in a statement.

Under terms of the collaboration, AbbVie will provide the school $30 million over the next three years, as well as in-kind support from AbbVie’s own research scientists and facilities. The goal will be to advance collaborative research and early-stage development efforts across five program areas that address a variety of therapeutic modalities: Immunity and immunopathology; host targeting for antiviral therapies; antibody therapeutics, which will include research into potential treatments for COVID-19; small molecules; and translational development. In each of these areas, AbbVie and Harvard have already established the leaders from each entity that will be responsible for leading the research.

AbbVie is no stranger to collaborations in virology. Earlier this year, the company struck an agreement with Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands, along with Harbour BioMed, to develop a novel antibody therapeutic to prevent and treat COVID-19. The focus of the collaboration is on advancing the fully human, neutralizing antibody 47D11 discovered by those partners. This antibody targets the conserved domain of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

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