Vir Biotechnology, a San Francisco-based biotechnology firm, said Wednesday that laboratory testing showed two of its antibody drugs appeared to neutralize the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and that it would pursue testing them in people.

The company said that human tests of the drugs could begin in three to five months, putting it roughly in line with two other efforts to produce anti-coronavirus antibodies. Regeneron, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., has said that its antibodies could enter trials by early summer — and that its treatment, if it proves effective, could be available for some uses in the fall. Eli Lilly, which is developing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with AbCellera, a Vancouver biotech, has said it hopes to begin human tests in four months.

“Stopping this disease will take a combination of prevention and treatment approaches,”  Vir CEO George Scangos said in a statement. “At Vir, we are fortunate that our existing antibody platform gave us a running start against COVID-19, and we have the internal and partnered capabilities to work on multiple approaches.”

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Vir is working with the Cambridge, Mass., biotech firm Biogen, where Scangos was previously CEO, and Wuxi Biologics, a China-based manufacturing organization.

Antibodies are a part of the immune system that drug companies have learned to weaponize as treatments for diseases. An antibody drug against SARS-CoV-2 might either treat infection in very sick patients or prevent infection. It is one of many techniques researchers are attempting against Covid-19. For a rundown of approaches, see this story.

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Vir is taking a somewhat different approach from Regeneron. While Regeneron is going to choose two antibodies to use together, Vir has picked a single antibody. But Vir is modifying it in two different ways and testing the resulting two experimental drugs in parallel.

The first modification should make the antibodies last longer in the body, and is being done to both candidates. The second, in animal models, leads to long-term production of white blood cells that might lead to long-term immunity, as with a vaccine. If this proves effective, the antibody could be used to prevent infection.

Vir said it has also identified other antibodies that work differently, so that they might be combined with the two it is testing. And it is continuing to search for antibodies in the blood or patients who have survived SARS-CoV-2.

  • This is an unusual situation; the entire world has been affected by this pandemic. Nothing is usual about this virus. Treatment records of every patient should be sent to the CDC so algorithms could show the best treatment for each new patient. Doctors could then go to the CDC for treatment advise. Each new patient would have the best treatment for his age, sex, length of infection, etc.
    All hands on deck!

    • I saw a news report that China was able to trace the spread in huge numbers of people. This is useful information as they can assess the risk of various public behaviors. But the reason they were able to do it is truly frightening. Apparently, they have their population under so much surveillance that they know which seat every person sat on in a long distance bus ride. It is not clear if these particular people were under surveillance before the epidemic for some reason.
      China is truly a big brother society on a level the world has never seen before-because it was not possible without AI surveillance. We need them to fight the epidemic, but after that, we need to do whatever we can to damage them.

  • Hello Team kudos to you in your epic research to fight COVID-19. I am from India, currently in lockdown staying at home. Can you please suggest me few precautions?

  • I am concerned things are not getting done fast enough, and to that end I ask, is the Federal Government doing anything to ensure these companies have the money and access to patients/potential patients to get some results ASAP?
    It is not clear to me that the biotech companies are not dependent entirely on their own resources to begin testing, they have to find test subjects on their own, etcetera.

    Also, in regards to some research – does the $2T relief bill do anything like, make treatment paid for by the Feds but demand cooperation from the patient in research, like if you get treated on the government’s dime and recover, they have a right to your convalescent plasma, have a right to genetically test you to see if you had say a genetic condition which made you more/less vulnerable, etcetera?
    I do not know much but because we have a son in autism research I have learned the IRBs can be very demanding and really make a lot of research difficult.
    My son for example got multiple MRIs, to look at his connectome and volume of various brain structures I think – not really sure – but anyway, the IRB did not want to allow sedation for the kids because sedation has some risks and there was no realistic benefit to the subject himself – to others, maybe huge – but not to the subject himself- from the MRI – though even that was kind of questionable as occasionally the MRI found some brain condition which was life threatening – so, free MRI might save your kid’s life (the condition is associated with autism so the non-control group really got a benefit). – but anyway, the researchers could not even tell the parents to give the kid a Benadryl to make him sleep for the MRI. And a blood draw – a basic blood draw – is even a big deal.

    I am all for informed consent but it scares me to think of research that may not ever take place because of too much caution.

    I hope the researchers on this are twisting people’s arms and getting the Feds to help so they can find out what works (If anything, frightening to think maybe nothing will) ASAP.

  • There seems to be a lot money in increasing the fear. Corona has a death rate of less than 2 pr million in Korea. Flu is around 300 pr million, more than 100 times more deadly. Even in Italy the normal flu is 5 times more deadly than Corona. Even with vaccination campaigns for the flu. Handling corona (common cold) viruses have not had success in the past, but with the extreme fear associated with Corona, all nations will compete to get any remedy. Great for business. But the results will probably not be fantastic.

    • During the height of a bad flu season, are there shortages of hospital beds? Is pneumonia number one cause of death? Just curious to see if the panic/fear is because of onslaught in a small period of time? Thanks!

    • You are blatantly wrong and definitely not a “Former NIH Researcher”. South Korea has had 126 deaths out of 9,137 cases. That’s a 1.4% mortality rate, not the 0.0002% you claim. You’re off by a factor of 7000. Please stop pretending to be something you aren’t.

    • What you can’t do is compare SK’s situation to any other large country out there. They are almost alone in how well they’ve handled the virus, getting testing out early and containing the hot spots as they appeared. Their mortality rate will also be deceptively lower since their health care system was never overloaded. Also, comparing the mortality numbers to the flu is idiotic, since the flu has already saturated the entire world population. This virus is just getting started and is guaranteed to be catastrophic if allowed to keep up its rate of spread.

    • I am sure you pretend to be a Researcher- stop sharing wrong data please it is a question of life and death to people, many people are suffering, it is highly contagious. Stop your nonsense data share.

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