Close to the Edge: Regeneron’s George Yancopoulos and Aris Baras Discuss Company, COVID-19

On Episode 2 of GEN‘s new video series “Close to the Edge”, we’re delighted to welcome two key figures at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals—George Yancopoulos, MD, PhD (president/chief scientific officer) and Aris Baras, MD, head of the Regeneron Genetics Center (RGC).

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Regeneron, which was founded in 1988 by Len Schleifer, MD, who remains the company’s CEO, has grown into one of the world’s largest biotech companies, with a market cap of more $50 billion and more than 9,000 employees worldwide. Regeneron has also emerged as a leader in the field of genomic medicine, the application of sequence data for drug development and clinical trials. And of course, the company made a splash in 2020 when it rolled out one of the first effective COVID-19 therapeutics, REGEN-COV.

Yancopoulos, who joined Schleifer at Regeneron in 1989 as a founding scientist, is also one of the few members of the National Academy of Sciences who come from industry rather than academia. He spoke about the launch and growth of the company through to its prominent role in 2020, when the firm’s REGEN-COV dual antibody cocktail was injected into some powerful patient arms, including that of the former president.

We also discussed some other notable drugs in the Regeneron portfolio. REGEN-COV is one of eight treatments for which Regeneron has received FDA approval or emergency authorization. The others include a three-antibody cocktail for Ebola; two drugs targeting cholesterol, Praluent and Evkeeza; and the eye treatment Eylea, co-developed with Bayer. Regeneron also partnered with Sanofi in developing Kevzara for moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis; Dupixent, marketed for atopic dermatitis and other indications; and Libtayo for some forms of cancer.)

Joining Yancopoulos for this episode was Aris Baras, MD, a ten-year veteran at Regeneron, who highlighted some of the successes at the RGC. Baras and colleagues have completed the sequencing of some 1.5 million exomes, establishing RGC as a pioneer in the field of patient genome sequencing.

We closed with a look ahead, as Yancopoulos and Baras discussed technologies that will change the face of drug development over the next decade or so, such as RNAi and CRISPR. Yancopoulos also had some strong advice for the Biden Administration in what it should (and should not) do to facilitate innovation to counter future epidemics, whether they be infectious or genetic in nature.