Less than a year after its launch, Vir Biotechnology today disclosed it has secured more than $500 million in financing toward an acquisition and a series of collaborations launched with two companies—each of which could generate over $1 billion—and four top-tier academic research institutions.
The collaborations, acquisition, and financing are aimed at building the company’s pipeline, technology, and global footprint, all with the goal of developing treatments for infectious diseases, Vir said.
Vir has pinpointed three areas of initial focus: chronic infectious diseases including hepatitis B (HBV), tuberculosis (TB), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); respiratory diseases that include influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and metapneumovirus (MPV); and health-care acquired infections.
“We expect to move several compounds into clinical development in the next 18 months and we have an option to acquire a portion of a Phase 2 compound targeting flu. We also continue to evaluate several near-term opportunities to acquire additional mid- and late-stage clinical compounds, as well as expand our technology base even further,” Vir CEO George A. Scangos, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Dr. Scangos previously served as Biogen CEO before joining executives with research and industry experience to launch Vir in January with a $150 million commitment from ARCH Venture Partners alone, and additional funds from another prominent lead investor, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“I am pleased that in our first year we have been able to align leading ideas, technology, and expertise focused on transforming the care of people with serious infectious diseases and providing a return to our investors,” Dr. Scangos added.
In today’s flurry of deals, Vir has acquired Humabs BioMed, a Swiss discoverer and developer of fully human monoclonal antibodies to treat serious infections, for an undisclosed price. Humabs’ technology is designed to enable rapid isolation and development of antibodies that have passed natural selection by the human immune system in response to viral and bacterial diseases.
In acquiring Humabs, Vir has added to its portfolio more than 15 antibody development candidates—including preclinical antibodies designed to treat HBV, RSV/MPV, Zika, and dengue—as well as a proprietary antibody discovery platform and antibody engineering capabilities. Vir said Humabs and its employees will continue to operate the acquired company’s facilities in Bellinzona, Switzerland, and maintain its research collaboration with the Institute for Research in Biomedicine.
$1B+ Visterra, Alnylam Collaborations
Vir also agreed to partner with Visterra on developing up to six antibodies to treat infectious diseases and with Alnylam on up to five RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics programs for the treatment of infectious diseases.
Visterra could gain from Vir more than $1 billion in payments tied to achieving development, regulatory, and sales milestones, plus royalties from future product sales, under an exclusive research collaboration, license, and option agreement signed by the companies.
Under that agreement, Vir has an option to join Visterra in developing and commercializing VIS410, a Phase II monoclonal antibody indicated for treating influenza A in hospitalized patients. The agreement includes a minority stake for Vir in VIS410, as well as cost- and profit-sharing arrangements and co-promotion rights in unspecified territories.
VIS410 is now under study in a Phase IIa clinical trial in ambulatory patients with influenza A, with funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Visterra said top-line results from the trial are expected in early 2018, with a Phase IIb study of VIS410 in hospitalized patients with influenza A set to begin in early 2018.
Vir and Visterra also agreed to advance three infectious disease antibodies developed with Visterra’s novel HierotopeTM technology, including antibodies against influenza, RSV, and fungal infections. Vir has the right to launch two additional research programs to develop antibodies against pathogens of its choosing.
With Alnylam, Vir has signed an exclusive license and collaboration agreement covering up to five RNAi therapeutics programs to treat infectious diseases. The companies have agreed to advance ALN-HBV02 for the treatment of HBV jointly, with Alnylam retaining an option to participate in commercialization of the product.
Alnylam also agreed with Vir to develop RNAi products for up to four additional infectious disease targets of Vir’s choosing. Vir said it retains the option to further develop any resulting product candidates.
Vir also announced agreements of undisclosed value with four academic research institutions:
- Stanford University—Vir has licensed artificial intelligence technology designed to mine gene expression data for early diagnostic predictions and target discovery.
- Harvard University—Under a five-year strategic research alliance, Vir agreed to foster scientific collaboration with Harvard and provide financial support for innovative research projects in infectious diseases, to which Vir will have exclusive access to negotiate licenses.
- Oregon Health & Science University—Vir expanded an existing relationship with OHSU to include additional sponsored research. OHSU remains a key partner, Vir said, in the development of its cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine platform.
- Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center—Vir and Fred Hutch have inked a sponsored research agreement focused on cell therapy.