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27 February 2020AmericasSarah Morgan

Vir Biotech partners with WuXi on COVID-19 antibody treatment

Immunology-focused Vir Biotechnology and Hong Kong-based WuXi Biologics have become the latest companies to turn their focus to developing treatments for the novel coronavirus.

On Tuesday, February 25, the duo announced their plan to collaborate on the development and manufacture of human monoclonal antibodies for the potential treatment of COVID-19, a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

Under the agreement, WuXi will conduct cell-line development, process and formulation development, and initial manufacturing for clinical development.

Earlier in February, Vir announced that it had identified two monoclonal antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies were isolated from individuals who had survived a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) infection.

George Scangos, CEO of Vir, said: “We are acutely aware of the importance of moving rapidly in response to COVID-19. In the event that we are in a position to develop an antibody therapy, our agreement with WuXi enables us to accelerate advancement against this global threat.”

If the antibodies receive regulatory approvals, WuXi has the rights to commercialise therapies in Greater China, and Vir has the rights to commercialise therapies in all other markets worldwide.

Chris Chen, CEO of WuXi Biologics, added: “Both WuXi and Vir felt the great urgency to develop antibodies to treat global patients provided they work in the clinic. Our state-of-the-art technology platform and robust global-quality supply network make us uniquely qualified in expediting the development and manufacturing of these potential treatments.”

WuXi and Vir are not the first companies to turn to antibody treatments—in early February, Regeneron publicised its expanded collaboration with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) focused on developing antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Other companies are looking to vaccines. In mid-February, Johnson & Johnson’s unit Janssen expanded an existing R&D agreement with the HHS as part of efforts to speed up the development of an investigational vaccine.

Shortly after, Sanofi’s vaccine unit Sanofi Pasteur united with HHS, seeking to leverage its earlier work on a pre-clinical SARS vaccine candidate.

Indian drugmaker Zydus Cadila has also  launched a fast track programme to develop a vaccine.

Sister publication WIPR is running a  live blog where you can find all the latest news on what COVID-19 means for IP.

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