Trump's antibody drug was developed with cells derived from fetus
REVEALED: Trump’s Regeneron antibody drug was developed with cells derived from an aborted fetus
- Regeneron’s new ‘antibody cocktail’ was tested using HEK 293T human cells
- The cells ultimately derive from the kidney of an aborted baby in the 1970s
- The firm acknowledged this but said today’s cells are ‘not considered fetal tissue’
- Trump, who has sought to restrict abortion rights, has hailed Regeneron’s drug
Donald Trump’s antibody treatment was developed with cells which are ultimately derived from an aborted fetus, it has emerged.
The Regeneron ‘antibody cocktail’ administered to the president was tested using a supply of HEK 293T human cells, which have been cloned and modified in science labs for decades but originate from the kidney of an aborted baby in the 1970s.
According to the MIT Technology Review, labs including Regeneron use the 293T cells to manufacture small particles which mimic the coronavirus.
The company did not deny the link to abortion, but said the modified cells available today are ‘not considered fetal tissue’.
‘It’s how you want to parse it,’ said spokeswoman Alexandra Bowie, adding that ‘we did not otherwise use fetal tissue’.
Trump, who has sought to restrict abortion rights throughout his presidency, has hailed the success of Regeneron and promised to make it free to the public after his apparent recovery from Covid-19.
Donald Trump speaks outside the White House following his apparent recovery from Covid-19 which he has attributed to Regeneron’s ‘antibody cocktail’
Trump was given an experimental ‘antibody cocktail’ made by Regeneron as well as a host of other drugs to treat his coronavirus infection
Donald Trump was given the antibody treatment REGN-COV2 on compassionate grounds by its US manufacturer Regeneron.
The drug, which has not yet been approved for the treatment of Covid-19, is subject to clinical trials around the world.
The cocktail of drugs targets two components in the spike protein of the Covid-19 virus, with the aim of interrupting its ability to infect cells.
One of the antibodies in the ‘cocktail’ is based on an antibody that mice produce in response to coronavirus, while the other is based on an antibody isolated from the one of the first US COVID-19 patients.
The hope is that the treatment drives down viral load, keeping it from overrunning the body and sending the immune system haywire, and preventing the infection from becoming severe.
REGN-COV2 is still in early trial phases, but the first data from its clinical trial found that it lowered viral load within a week and cut recovery time in half in patients that weren’t sick enough to be hospitalized. Regeneron has not yet studied the drug in severely ill patients.
Do I have any hope of getting this drug if I fall ill?
REGN-COV2 is currently being trialled globally, including in UK hospitals, where at least 2,000 patients will receive it.
The Recovery study, co-ordinated by the University of Oxford, will assess the impact of giving patients the drug alongside usual standard care, to see if it lessens the severity of Covid-19 and can reduce deaths.
Experts are hopeful the drug will work and can be pushed through regulatory channels quickly for widespread use.
In the US, Donald Trump has said he plans to seek emergency use authorisation from federal agencies for the medicine’s use.
What else did Donald Trump receive?
Thanks to the UK-led Recovery trial, which includes 176 UK hospital sites, a cheap steroid called dexamethasone was found in June to save the lives of people with severe Covid infection.
The widely available drug, which is now being used globally, was found to cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators.
For those needing some form of oxygen treatment but not a ventilator, it cut deaths by a fifth.
The drug works like a regular steroid by calming the immune system, but can have side-effects such as irritability and difficulty sleeping.
Patients in UK hospitals now have access to dexamethasone if their doctors feel they would benefit from it.
Trump also received remdesivir, an antiviral drug that was first developed as a treatment for Ebola, and works by disrupting the virus’ ability to replicate.
Clinical trials have shown the drug cuts the duration of symptoms from 15 days to 11, but there is no data yet on survival.
The European Commission has sealed a deal with pharmaceutical company Gilead to buy 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir, to ensure it can be stockpiled.
This means countries including the UK can continue to purchase the drug for widespread use.
HEK 293 is a ‘human cell lineage’ which ultimately derives from the kidney of a fetus which was aborted in the Netherlands around 1973.
One sub-group is 293T cells, which are widely used in biological research.
The use of HEK 293 cells to test Covid-19 vaccines has previously led to objections from Catholic groups and pro-life medical workers, although the Vatican has indicated in the past that it is permissible.
In 2017, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life said in reference to other vaccines that ‘currently used cell lines are very distant from the original abortions’.
‘We believe that all clinically recommended vaccinations can be used with a clear conscience and that the use of such vaccines does not signify some sort of cooperation with voluntary abortion,’ the Academy said.
Regeneron says the 293T cells were used to make ‘pseudoparticles’, small structures which resemble the Covid-19 virus.
These dummy viruses are then used to test whether the ‘antibody cocktail’ would be effective at combating Covid-19.
Trump has embraced anti-abortion rhetoric as a Republican candidate and as president, although before entering politics he expressed pro-choice views.
In January, Trump became the first sitting president to speak at the March for Life anti-abortion rally, claiming that ‘unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House’.
Abortion rights groups fear that Trump’s Supreme Court picks – including the pending nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – will lead to abortion rights being weakened or eliminated.
The Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade prevents states from banning abortion outright, but conservative activists want the ruling overturned.
Barrett’s confirmation would give a 6-3 majority on the court to justices appointed by Republican presidents, after the death of liberal judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump’s re-election campaign also touts a rule enacted in 2019 allowing health care workers to refuse to provide abortions on religious or conscientious grounds.
However, the rule was struck down months later by a federal judge who said it was unconstitutional for the government to withhold billions of dollars of funding from hospitals, clinics, universities and other healthcare providers that did not comply.
Despite these positions, Trump touted the success of Regeneron in a video filmed at the White House on Wednesday in which he promised it would be made free to Americans.
‘Within a very short period of time they gave me Regeneron, it’s called Regeneron, and other things too but I think this was the key,’ he said of his treatment.
‘It was, like, unbelievable. I felt good immediately. I felt as good three days ago as I do now.
‘So I just want to say, we have Regeneron, we have a very similar drug from Eli Lilly, and they’re coming out, and we’re trying to get them on an emergency basis.’
Regeneron’s ‘cocktail’ includes some antibodies manufactured by the firm’s scientists, and others extracted from people who have recovered from Covid-19.
While the ultimate goal is a vaccine which coaches the body to make its own antibodies, scientists are already combing through antibodies from recovered patients to find the most effective out of thousands.
The antibodies in Regeneron’s product are meant to attach themselves to the distinctive ‘spike’ protein of the Covid-19 virus, knocking it out of shape.
Regeneron’s chief scientific officer boasted last month that the cocktail ‘rapidly reduced viral load and associated symptoms’ in testing on infected patients.
The product was then catapulted into the spotlight when Trump’s physician Dr Sean Conley announced it was being administered to the commander-in-chief.
Regeneron scientists work with a bioreactor at a facility in New York state during their work on an experimental antibody drug
Regeneron said it agreed to supply a single dose for Trump at the request of his physician under ‘compassionate use’ provisions.
One infectious disease expert said the president’s doctors would ‘hope this is relatively low risk’ despite the experimental nature of the drug.
Since Trump touted the success of it, patients have asked to join clinical trials and shares in Regeneron have gone up.
Regeneron has received $450million from the U.S. government for up to 300,000 doses of the cocktail.
While Trump’s health has been the subject of mixed messaging in the last week, the president insisted today that he was feeling ‘really good, I think perfect’.
‘I think I’m better to the point where I’d love to do a rally tonight,’ Trump said in an interview with Fox Business, adding that he no longer thinks he’s ‘contagious at all.’
‘I had tremendous luck with this Regeneron,’ Trump said during the interview.
Dr Conley said Trump had developed antibodies, which Regeneron said were likely from its product.
Trump previously spent months of this year touting the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which is not proven as a treatment for Covid-19.
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