After news broke last weekend that President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer ’73 was once again thrust into the spotlight, running the biotech company responsible for the experimental antibody cocktail that the president is taking to treat his symptoms.
Just last year, Schleifer was named Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year for being “a powerhouse in biotech,” according to a University press release. After starting Regeneron in 1988 with co-founder Dr. George Yancopoulos, the company has grown from a small startup to a leader in biotechnology.
Schleifer has been named repeatedly to Harvard Business Review’s list of best-performing CEOs and Regeneron is consistently ranked among the most innovative companies by Forbes Magazine.
Now, Regeneron has not only gained recognition for its success, but also the experimental drug cocktail that has shown promising results in treating the initial symptoms of COVID-19 infections. The treatment, which is called a monoclonal antibody cocktail, works in a vaccine-like way, aiming to boost an individual’s immune defenses before more severe symptoms take root.
Since the drug is still in experimental stages, it’s not available to the general public through any means other than a clinical trial. Schleifer had given Trump’s doctors access to the drug through “compassionate use,” which allows for patients with life-threatening illnesses to use experimental drugs.
But Schleifer is more than just the man that supplies Trump’s experimental drug treatment — he has known the president for years and is a member of the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester.
Nevertheless, Schleifer says he hasn’t shown Trump favoritism in allowing doctors to use the drug, since “he is not the first patient to be granted permission to use the treatment this way,” but “asking somebody like the president to go into a clinical trial just wasn’t practical,” Schleifer explained in an interview with The New York Times.
The company is uneasy about giving priority use for the drug to certain patients. “We didn’t want to decide who gets a limited number of doses,” Yancopoulos told the Times.
Ideally, the drug treatment would be available to many patients as soon as possible to transform COVID-19 from a life-threatening disease to a manageable illness.
Although the treatment is only available through compassionate use and clinical trials, Regeneron’s stock has already jumped by 10 percent in response to publicity surrounding the company’s involvement in Trump’s treatment.
But regardless of the success and press that Schleifer has received as Regeneron’s CEO, during times of crisis, the health of patients is at the forefront.
“We want everyone to be potentially able to benefit,” Schleifer told Business Insider.