Vir expands partnership with Gates Foundation, adding $50M for HIV and malaria antibody research initiative
Just two days after the US bought 600,000 more doses of Vir and GSK’s Covid-19 antibody sotrovimab to guard against Omicron, Vir Biotechnology announced a partnership expansion with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its T-cell vaccine program.
The partnership had been in place for a few years with Vir’s T-cell vaccine program targeting TB and HIV. The foundation is putting up $50 million — $10 million in the form of a grant and the rest in an equity investment.
The arrangement is for an antibody research initiative, focusing on a functional cure for HIV and malaria prevention, according to a joint statement. Part of that initiative will also include a proof-of-concept clinical trial, looking at engineered antibodies designed to both inhibit viral replication and spread in people infected with HIV. And additionally, the partners will see if these antibodies can confer a vaccine-like protective effect that could be applicable to durable HIV suppression without the use of more commonly used antiretroviral therapy. The same concept will be applied against malaria as part of preclinical research.
“We look forward to applying the lessons learned thus far in COVID-19, chronic hepatitis B virus infection and influenza to advance our efforts toward curing HIV and preventing malaria,” Vir CEO George Scangos said in a statement.
Just last month, the FDA cleared the first long-acting HIV-prevention injectable, handing ViiV a historic OK. The company’s treatment, Apretude, is first given as two injections a month apart, then every two months after.
“Today’s approval adds an important tool in the effort to end the HIV epidemic by providing the first option to prevent HIV that does not involve taking a daily pill,” FDA director of antivirals Debra Birnkrant said at the time.