GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has agreed to invest $250m in Vir Biotechnology for the research and development (R&D) of antibodies to treat Covid-19 infection.
The companies signed a binding agreement to work on treatments for coronaviruses, including the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As part of the alliance, Vir’s monoclonal antibody platform technology will expedite existing anti-viral antibodies, as well as discover those new, for Covid-19. GSK will contribute via its functional genomics expertise.
The partners intend to further leverage their respective CRISPR screening and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to identify an anti-coronavirus candidate that could act on cellular host genes.
In addition, GSK and Vir will utilise their combined capabilities to explore coronavirus vaccines. The companies will combine GSK’s vaccines technologies and expertise with Vir’s ability to find neutralising epitopes across viral families.
GSK chief scientific officer and R&D president Dr Hal Barron said: “Vir’s unique antibody platform has precedented success in identifying and developing antibodies as treatments for multiple pathogens, and it is highly complementary with our R&D approach to focus on the science of immunology.
“I am very excited that the talent and passion of our two companies will come together to develop solutions for multiple diseases, including the very promising antibody candidates targeting Covid-19.”
Initially, the companies will focus on expediting the development of antibody candidates VIR-7831 and VIR-7832 discovered using Vir’s platform. These specific antibodies are said to possess high affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The plan is to directly advance the candidates into a Phase II clinical trial in the coming three to five months.
Furthermore, Vir’s CRISPR screening and machine learning technology will detect cellular targets that could be blocked to prevent viral infection.
Vir Biotechnology CEO George Scangos said: “It is becoming increasingly clear that multiple therapeutic approaches, used in combination or in sequence, will be necessary to stop this coronavirus pandemic. It is likely that the current coronavirus outbreak will not be the last.
“These insights are informing our scientific approach and we are pleased to join forces on the execution of this strategy with GSK, who have a like-minded R&D strategy, a deep expertise in vaccines and an impressive global reach to bring medicines to people around the world.”