In 2020, a single virus upended our world and reintroduced the word “pandemic” into our lexicon. Covid-19 was not the first pandemic, and it almost certainly will not be the last. But for many of us, it was a stark reminder that a single virus can bring the world to its knees in a matter of weeks.
Infectious diseases are among the greatest threats to global health, economic security, and society as a whole. Viruses spread fast and can mutate quickly. New pathogens with the potential to change the lives of billions of people are emerging more frequently than ever before as shrinking natural habitats and the ease of global travel bring humans in closer and more frequent contact with these viruses.
Outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics of recent memory, like Covid-19, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), avian and swine flu, and Ebola, have reinforced the critical need for broad coordination and the urgency to act across industry, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. In order to respond rapidly and effectively to the next infectious disease threat, we must apply our collective efforts toward:
- Ensuring systemic monitoring of current and emerging threats is in place
- Accelerating genetic sequencing and epidemiology after virus or viral variant discovery
- Shortening the approval timeline for new diagnostic tools, vaccines, and treatments
- Identifying, developing, and being ready to deploy a broad set of solutions including vaccines, and interventions, such as small molecules, antivirals, monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), and other novel approaches
A singular focus on infectious disease
Vir Biotechnology was founded in 2016 with the mission of creating a world without infectious disease. Vir is singularly focused on addressing some of the world’s most serious infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis D, as well as global pandemic threats such as Covid-19, influenza, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
When Covid-19 emerged, Vir rose to the challenge, working alongside GSK, its partner in this effort, to develop and deliver an important mAb therapy to patients in just over a year. Vir is now working to address what it believes could be the next pandemic threat – influenza A.
The next pandemic virus may already be among us
The U.S. is currently experiencing what could be the worst flu outbreak in a decade. The flu season typically peaks between December and February. And reports show that, as of January 6, there had already been at least 22 million flu infections, 230,000 hospitalizations, and 14,000 deaths.
Influenza A has been circulating among humans for more than a century. During that time, it has had the opportunity to evolve, mutate, and adapt to evade our natural immune response, as well as vaccines and available treatments. While vaccines are widely available and remain an essential tool against the spread and impact of influenza A, morbidity and mortality remain significant, especially among the most vulnerable populations who are at highest risk.
A new approach
Leveraging its expertise in mAb discovery and design, Vir is pursuing a different approach to preventing illness from influenza A. The company’s lead candidate, VIR-2482, is an investigational, intramuscularly administered, influenza A-neutralizing mAb being evaluated for its ability to provide additional protection against both seasonal and pandemic flu with just one dose for the entire season. In vitro, it has demonstrated the ability to neutralize every strain of influenza A that has emerged over the last 100 years.
Vir recently completed enrollment of a 3,000-person Phase 2 trial and expects to have initial data by mid-2023. This effort has the support of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which provided an initial $55 million investment for the development of VIR-2482 as part of a broader multi-year contract worth up to $1 billion for the development of other medical countermeasure candidates.* The agreement between Vir and BARDA was made under Other Transaction Authority, which allows flexible, strategic collaboration between the government and industry to foster innovation and promote collaboration. Partnerships like this help support critical research and development efforts that can speed the identification and development of potential vaccines and treatments to ensure there is a library of potential candidates ready to deploy in case of another major public health emergency.
Innovative technological solutions and advance preparation are paramount to ensuring our world is ready to respond quickly to the next major infectious disease threat and save lives.
To learn more about Vir Biotechnology’s efforts to develop new solutions for a broad range of infectious diseases and help ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic, visit www.vir.bio.
*The development of VIR-2482 has been supported in part with federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR); Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), under Other Transaction Number: 75A50122C00081.