Trump antibody drug originally developed with foetal cells derived from abortion, report says

Drug development relied on cells derived from 1970s abortion in Netherlands, according to report

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Friday 09 October 2020 09:52
Trump walks out of Walter Reed hospital

The emergency antibody treatment Donald Trump received to fight coronavirus was reportedly developed with cells originally derived from an abortion

The experimental cocktail of drugs developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals relied on foetal cells from an abortion in the Netherlands in the 1970s, according to the MIT Technology Review.

This comes just weeks after Mr Trump nominated conservative anti-abortion judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

Mr Trump received the treatment after he was taken to Walter Reed over the weekend, before he returned to the White House on Monday evening.

The Covid-19 fighting Regeneron antibodies are actually made in cells from a hamster’s ovary, not human cells, according to the company.

But the firm used cells originally from a foetus in another way to produce the drug, the report states.

“According to Regeneron, laboratory tests used to assess the potency of its antibodies employed a standardized supply of cells called HEK 293T, whose origin was kidney tissue from an abortion in the Netherlands in the 1970s,” it states.

“Since then, the 293T cells have been ‘immortalized’, meaning they keep dividing in the lab, somewhat like a cancer, and have undergone other genetic changes and additions.”

The article states that Regeneron uses the 293T cells to make “pseudo-particles” of the virus that contain the infamous “spike” protein of coronavirus.

The company then uses that to test how well their antibodies will fight the virus.

Regeneron says that because the cells were acquired so long ago they are no longer considered related to the abortion.

“It’s how you want to parse it,” Regeneron spokesperson Alexandra Bowie told the magazine.

“But the 293T cell lines available today are not considered foetal tissue, and we did not otherwise use foetal tissue."

Ms Bowie told the New York Times: “293Ts were used in testing the antibodies’ ability to neutralize the virus. They weren’t used in any other way, and foetal tissue was not used in the research.”

The irony of the situation was not lost on the MIT Technology Review.

“When the president faced a deadly encounter with Covid-19, his administration raised no objections over the fact that the new drugs also relied on foetal cells, and anti-abortion campaigners were silent too,” it stated.

“Most likely, their hypocrisy was unwitting.

“Many types of medical and vaccine research employ supplies of cells originally acquired from abortion tissue.

“It would have taken an expert to realize that was the case with Trump’s treatment.”

On his first morning back in the White House, Mr Trump raised the issue of abortion which is increasingly becoming a talking point in the campaign, on Twitter. 

“Biden and Democrats just clarified the fact that they are fully in favor of (very) LATE TERM ABORTION, right up until the time of birth, and beyond - which would be execution. Biden even endorsed the Governor of Virginia, who stated this clearly for all to hear,” Mr Trump wrote before adding: “GET OUT & VOTE!!!”, the president wrote. 

It came after Joe Biden said he would make Roe v Wade the ‘law of the land’. 

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Regeneron replied: "We used the HEK293T cell line to test our antibodies’ ability to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus (they were used to make ‘pseudovirus’ that looks like the Spike protein). HEK293s are considered ‘immortalised’ cells (not stem cells) and are a common and widespread tool in research labs.

“This cell line was originally derived by adenovirus transformation of human embryonic kidney cells in 1977. After this, it was further transformed at Stanford in the ‘80s with SV40 T-antigen (hence the “T”). HEK293T wasn’t used in any other way, and foetal tissue was not used in this research. We did not use human stem cells or human embryonic stem cells in the development of REGN-COV2.”

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