GSK Injects $250m into Vir in Collaborative Pact to Develop COVID-19 Treatments

Apr 6, 2020 | Coronavirus, COVID-19, GSK, Monoclonal Antibody, Vir Biotechnology

GSK Injects $250m into Vir in Collaborative Pact to Develop COVID-19 Treatments

Leveraging its capital, global reach, and functional genomics expertise, GlaxoSmithKline will inject $250 million into Vir Biotechnology, and its proprietary monoclonal antibody platform, as part of a collaboration to develop COVID-19 therapy candidates into Phase II clinical trials this year. The pair will target new anti-viral antibodies and evaluate existing candidates all in a big push to contribute to the all-out war on COVID-19. The race to discover, development, and commercialize COVID-19 cures heats up.

The Targets

The companies will commence first targeting the acceleration of VIR-7831 and VIR-7832—both antibody candidates.  According to reports by the sponsor, both candidates’ evidence “high affinity” for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and look to be capable of effectively neutralizing the novel coronavirus in live virus-cellular assays.

Can they make it to Phase II within 3-5 Moths?

Hal Barron, MD and GSK’s Chief Scientific Officer and President R&D, declared in a statement, “Vir’s unique antibody platform has precedented success in identifying and developing antibodies as treatment for multiple pathogens, and it is highly complementary with our R&D approach to focus on the science of immunology.” Dr. Barron continued, “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.”

Partnership Agenda

This partnership combines GSK’s vaccine technology prowess and expertise with Vir’s targeted, value-added emphasis on the identification of neutralizing epitopes present across viral families. Additionally, both will combine expertise in CRISPR screening and artificial intelligence to identify candidates deriving from CRISPR screening of host targeted expressed in conjuncture with exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Cost Allocation

According to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vir will cover 72.5% of the development costs for the antibody program, 27.5% of the development costs for the vaccine program, and split equally the development costs for the functional genomics program.

Vir & WuXi Partnership

As part of this COVID-19 development initiative, Vir has granted to WuXi Biologics (Hong Kong) Limited under existing agreements the parties will have an exclusive research collaboration with respect to antibody products directed to SARS-CoV-2 or to any other coronavirus, and in connection with functional genomics CRISPR screens for drug discovery and development in connection with coronavirus.

GSK to Lead Commercialization

Should the parties be successful with clinical trials and regulatory approvals, Vir will have a co-promotion right with respect to such antibody product in the United States, pursuant to which the company will have the right to perform up to 20% of details in connection with such antibody product. GSK will lead commercialization and book all sales and is required to use commercially reasonable efforts to commercialize each collaboration product following regulatory approval in the United States and specified major markets.

Stock Purchase Agreement

GSK will purchase 6,626,027 shares of the company stock agreement at $37.73 for an aggregate purchase price of $250 million as identified in the regulatory disclosures. 

Vir Expands its War on COVID-19

Vir has been busy progressing efforts to take on the novel coronavirus including a partnership with Biogen to develop monoclonal antibodies as well as a partnership with the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Vaccine Research Center (VRC) to collaborate with the government agency to jointly target antibodies addressing COVID-19 as well as other targets. Moreover as mentioned above Vir inked a deal with WuXi Biologics to advanced and develop monoclonal antibodies as potential COVID-19 targets—WuXi Biologics would have the commercial rights to the output in China.

About Vir Biotechnology Inc.

Vir Biotechnology is a San Francisco-based, clinical-stage immunology company focused on combining immunologic insights with cutting-edge technologies to treat and prevent serious infectious diseases. One of the leading causes of death worldwide, infectious diseases cause hundreds of billions worth of economic burden each year and with the COVID-19 pandemic, those figures in 2020 may be higher.

With a market capitalization of $3.6 billion, the biotech is expected to lose about $175 million with $383 million cash in the bank. Backed by Bill Gates, they went public in 2019 raising $143 million at $20 per share. They are currently priced at $33.73. The company was founded in 2016 and led by George Scangos, former CEO of Exelixis and then Biogen.