Thursday, March 12, 2020
Vir Biotechnology, Inc announced 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 joint project, which will begin this week, 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.
Under the terms of the agreement, 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.”
Vir has identified a number of monoclonal antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies were isolated from individuals who had survived a SARS infection. The company is conducting research to determine if its antibodies, or additional antibodies that it may be able to identify from COVID-19 survivors, can be effective as treatment and/or prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2.
NIAID-funded scientists are exploring ways to treat and prevent human coronavirus infections by working to develop new antibodies, drugs, and vaccines that block entry to cells, enhance the immune system response, or block viral replication. To date, this research has focused on the coronavirus spike protein and includes development of neutralization assays and competition assays that are used to characterize antibodies.