Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:REGN) Co-Founder & CEO Dr. Leonard Schleifer on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Monday, November 8th.
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Regeneron CEO On How Antibody Cocktail May Protect Against Covid-19
JOE KERNEN: Regeneron this morning saying a single dose of its antibody cocktail provides long term protection against COVID-19. Joining us now Dr. Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron President, CEO and Co-Founder and Founder. Hey so Len, previous to this we thought of the Regeneron antibodies as something that that you would use once you started getting symptoms, you go to the hospital, you get infused, and it battles COVID. Did you always plan on finding a prophylactic use? It almost sounds like a vaccine for people that don't have immune systems just give them the, just give them the antibodies.
DR. LEONARD SCHLEIFER: Yeah. Well hey, Joe, Becky, how are you this morning? Now look, we follow the science Joe as you know. Now George Yancopoulos, my Co-Founder and President of our company and his team are our scientific leaders and basically here’s where the science takes us. If you want to protect people on a population level, vaccines are the best way to go. They're cheap and you can make them into billions of doses. But our data now indicates that antibodies are the key player in the sense that they are sufficient. You might not need the cellular immunity, it might add something, but antibodies are sufficient based on these data to protect you from getting COVID-19. That's pretty amazing data. Now this data hasn't been yet reviewed by the FDA or authorized for use, but it does indicate you take a single dose subcutaneously and you're protected for months. Think of the immune compromised. They're really prisoners of the pandemic. They can't go out. They're afraid to see their grandchildren. They're afraid to see their family or do simple things even go to the grocery store because they don't respond to the vaccine. You can give them this as protection if we're authorized and a single dose infrequently, maybe every quarter or every five to six months, and they would be protected just as though they were vaccinated. It really could change their lives. It could free these prisoners.
KERNEN: You posited to me Len and I said I don't know if you really want to go into it but are there, is there a subgroup of the population that is worried about cellular immunity and the long-term effects of that and therefore haven't gotten the vaccine? Maybe frontline workers and you think that this could be something that they would be able to feel better about administering or having administered to them? And therefore take, is that actually a potential person that would, would want to do this?
DR. SCHLEIFER: Yes, look, Joe, I'm triply vaxxed.
KERNEN: Me too.
DR. SCHLEIFER: I believe in vaccines. We believe vaccines and so, we don't think that from a public health and population point of view, we can make enough antibodies at an affordable price to use them in a broad sense, but treating people are selected basis. You know, sometimes maybe we have to be a little bit more compassionate. People might not want to get vaccinated. We have to understand that and maybe if you're in the military or you're a teacher or you're on the frontline and you legitimately have this fear, maybe this can be offered as an alternative. It's something we have to discuss, but the data, put the politics aside, the data say that antibodies can protect you from getting COVID-19. That's pretty important information.
KERNEN: So, what, how will this, what needs to be done now? So, it's got to be looked at obviously by regulators, how long will that take? You obviously have a readymade population that you just talked about the pandemic prisoners that are craving this this to be able to do that. It'd be almost on a humanitarian basis as you say they can't see their grandkids. They can't and so many people in that, in that camp. How long will it take do you think Len best case scenario?
DR. SCHLEIFER: Yeah, doing this more than three decades, predicting the timing of the FDA is kind of a dangerous business Joe. But we've got our application there for months now and now we'll get this further data, which we think really should and we hope will push them over the top to saying look, if you're not gonna respond to the vaccine, you ought to get the antibody. Remember the vaccine, some people might say we haven't actually tested it in these immunocompromised people. Well, we actually haven't tested the vaccine in those immunocompromised people per se, it's still gonna work when you do respond. Our treatment is authorized in the immunocompromised, so I think this is not a big stretch for the people who truly are these prisoners of the pandemic. It's really as you say on a humanitarian individual empathy understanding. We have to help these people if we have something the regulators feel is safe and effective. I think it will go a long way towards convincing them and I hope it'll happen quickly. I’d love to see it happen before the holidays so everybody could—
KERNEN: So do I, Thanksgiving even. No, probably not. But what do you think of the Pfizer news and before that, that I mean already in the UK for the Merck drug. What do you think of, what do you think of those drugs, the data and how that becomes sort of a piece of the puzzle to, to put this behind us?
DR. SCHLEIFER: Yeah, I mean, I think what is amazing is what the entire biopharmaceutical industry has delivered. If you look at the broader perspective, they've delivered antibodies in record time, they've delivered vaccines in unbelievable, truly amazing speed and now there's two interesting oral drugs. Now these oral drugs are not going to be used chronically. There are some issues. One of the drugs in the Pfizer oral drug has questions about interaction with other drugs. The Merck product only provides 50% efficacy, which is a little bit low compared to what's typically seen in other trials of lots of monoclonals and there's some question about genotoxicity there as well. But I do think these oral drugs will have a place in the short-term, in the short-term treatment of the drug. But, but in terms of protecting those people who don't respond to the vaccine and in frequent subcutaneous injection the way so many of our drugs are used for other diseases could be used for this disease’s simple subcutaneous injection and you're on your way.
KERNEN: Would this be a money maker event? I mean not to get too, too crass, but are you looking at this being material down the road to Regeneron? Just part of that, I guess part of the whole stable of therapeutics.
DR. SCHLEIFER: Yeah, that’s too crass Joe. You know, we do follow the science. We make a difference to patients. But our model is we do this in the setting of a business and if we take care of the patients, I think it does take care of the business.
KERNEN: Very good. Len Schleifer, thanks for the, you know, I, you text me and we got, got you on your Zoom and it was a good-looking shot. You didn't make a day off that's your home Zoom.
DR. SCHLEIFER: Yeah, I was on my way out the door when you said that do you want to come on so I gotta get cracking and get going.
KERNEN: Yeah, you do but this is important to come on and explain things. Now go do your real job. We appreciate it. Thank you. Len Schleifer.
DR. SCHLEIFER: Thank you. Take care.