Vir Biotechnology, Inc. (San Francisco, CA, USA) has entered into a collaboration with Biogen Inc. (Cambridge, MA, USA) for the development and clinical manufacturing of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for the potential treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Vir Biotechnology is a clinical-stage immunology company focused on combining immunologic insights with cutting-edge technologies to treat and prevent serious infectious diseases. The company has assembled four technology platforms that are designed to stimulate and enhance the immune system by exploiting critical observations of natural immune processes. Vir has a robust method for capitalizing on unusually successful immune responses naturally occurring in people who are protected from, or have recovered from, infectious diseases. The platform is used to identify rare antibodies from survivors that have the potential to treat and prevent rapidly evolving and/or previously untreatable pathogens via direct pathogen neutralization and immune system stimulation. Vir engineers the fully human antibodies that it discovers to enhance their therapeutic potential. The company has identified a number of mAbs that bind to SARS-CoV-2, which were isolated from individuals who had survived a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) infection. The company is conducting research to determine if its antibodies, or additional antibodies that it may be able to identify, can be effective as treatment and/or prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2.
Due to the urgency of the situation, Vir and Biogen have begun work while a Clinical Development and Manufacturing Agreement is being negotiated. Subject to the completion of a definitive agreement, Biogen would continue cell line development, process development, and clinical manufacturing activities in order to advance the development of Vir’s proprietary antibodies.
“These exceptional circumstances presented by the threat of COVID-19 require that we work with great urgency in the interest of the public good,” said George Scangos, Ph.D., CEO, Vir. “Biogen is one of the global leaders in cell line and process development for advanced biologics; tapping into their capabilities will provide us with a U.S. base for supply and manufacture of antibody therapies.”
Similarly, Vir has also entered into a research collaboration agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Vaccine Research Center (VRC) to advance characterization and development of mAbs against coronaviruses. The joint project will augment ongoing efforts by both parties to identify antibodies that can be used to prevent or treat infection with existing and emerging viruses and help inform the development of vaccines. Vir and NIAID will work together to identify and optimize combinations of antibodies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, SARS and MERS, as well as antibodies that may be effective across additional types of coronaviruses. The two parties will exchange antibodies and other materials for testing in combination and individually and, by mutual agreement, will perform in vivo animal studies to analyze immune responses.
“This collaboration expands Vir’s efforts to characterize and develop antibody therapies against coronaviruses by allowing us to access the VRC’s significant and broad research experience with coronaviruses, which is complementary to ours,” said Herbert “Skip” Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Vir. “This is one of multiple approaches we are taking to rapidly identify and test potential prophylactics and therapeutics for COVID-19 and we expect it to allow us to accelerate finding solutions to this urgent public health need.”