Clinical-stage immunology company Vir Biotechnology Inc. (VIR:NASDAQ), which is focused on treating and preventing serious infectious diseases, today announced that it has 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 human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19."
The company advised that the joint project is scheduled to commence this week and is structured "to 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."
The agreement entails that Vir Biotech will work together with the NIAID to identify and optimize combinations of antibodies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, SARS and MERS. The joint research project will also investigate other antibodies that may be effective across additional coronavirus strains. The company and the NIAID have agreed to exchange antibodies and materials for testing and are also planning to implement in vivo animal studies in order to analyze immune responses.
The company's Chief Scientific Officer Herbert "Skip" Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., commented, "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...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."
The firm reported that "it has identified a number of monoclonal antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2 that were isolated from individuals who had survived SARS infections." The company is now investigating if its current antibodies, or additional antibodies from COVID-19 survivors, can be effective as treatment or prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2.
The company explained that its antibody 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." The firm indicated that its platform has already been used to identify and develop antibodies for pathogens including Ebola, hepatitis B virus, influenza A and malaria.
Vir Biotechnology is headquartered in San Francisco and describes itself as "a clinical-stage immunology company focused on treating and preventing serious infectious diseases." The company noted that its technology platforms serve to stimulate and enhance the immune system and identify and observe natural immune processes.
Vir Biotechnology has a market capitalization of around $3.3 billion with approximately 109.7 million shares outstanding. VIR shares opened more than 12 % higher today at $33.55 (+$3.64, +12.17%) over yesterday's $29.11 closing price. The stock has traded today between $30.52 and $40.99 per share and is currently trading at $34.89 (+$4.98, +16.65%).[NLINSERT]
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