(Adds context on production plan)
SEOUL, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Samsung BioLogics Co Ltd on Tuesday said it is mass-producing a COVID-19 antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly and Co, as the United States began distributing the drug last week after emergency-use approval.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug bamlanivimab earlier this month after clinical trials showed it reduced the need for hospitalisation or emergency room visits in COVID-19 patients at high risk of disease progression.
The FDA said the drug can be used for people aged 65 and over who have recently been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 and those aged 12 and over who have underlying health conditions putting them at risk of serious illness.
Lilly aims to manufacture up to one million doses by the end of 2020, for use worldwide through early next year. It expects supply to increase substantially from the first quarter of 2021 as additional manufacturing resources come online.
Samsung said it has a long-term manufacturing contract with Lilly. It did not disclose details.
The South Korean firm said it initially struggled to secure raw materials due to tight supplies. It expedited the technology transfer process, allowing it to begin shipments to Lilly five months after agreeing a production deal in May.
The drug is a monoclonal antibody - a widely used class of biotech drugs which in this case is a manufactured copy of an antibody the human body creates to fight infection.
Other potential antibody treatments being developed for COVID-19 patients include one by U.S. drugmaker Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, which U.S. President Donald Trump received after his diagnosis last month. (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Christopher Cushing)