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Vir Biotech launches new research programme for HIV and malaria prevention

Using antibody research, Vir will combine its existing immunology and virology expertise with the Gates Foundation

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Vir Biotech has announced the expansion of its partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The expansion will involve advancing innovative platform technologies in the development of producing a ‘vaccinal effect’ by broadly neutralising antibodies for the functional treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and to help prevent malaria.

The company will build on its partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through developing the new programme and aims to address the challenges presented by two of the world’s most infectious diseases.

The collaboration on the research initiative couples Vir’s extensive portfolio in immunology and virology with the Gates Foundation’s well-established position in global health leadership.

The antibody research programme includes a clinical proof-of-concept trial which will evaluate the potential impact of broadly neutralising antibodies produced to inhibit viral replication and spread in individuals infected with the HIV virus.

In addition, the programme will evaluate the individual’s ability to confer a vaccine-like effect which could have the potential to be applied to durable antiretroviral therapy (ART)-free suppression of HIV.

The partnership have planned additional clinical research in order to assess the capabilities of this technology in preventing malaria. The vaccinal antibody model is currently being incorporated across Vir’s existing candidate pipeline of potential SARS-CoV-2, chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and influenza A product cases.

George Scangos, chief executive officer of Vir Biotech, said: "Vir’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a formative and essential part of our company history beginning with our T-cell vaccine program targeting HIV and tuberculosis. This expanded collaboration into a second platform technology supports our shared goal of developing innovative solutions for prevention and treatment of global infectious diseases. 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,”

Speaking on behalf of the Gates Foundation, Mike McCune, head of the HIV Frontiers Program, said: “Even though HIV has gone from being a near-term fatal disease to a chronic condition for those who have access to effective antiviral therapies, there remains a significant unmet need for new advances that could enable durable antiretroviral-free suppression of HIV. The foundation is pleased to support the development of this novel vaccinal antibody technology that has the potential to result in such suppression and is committed to advancing access to this cutting-edge innovation globally.”

The collaboration also plans to extend the programme to tackling the challenges in low and middle-income countries against a variety of other infectious diseases. The Gates Foundation has invested $40m, along with a $10m grant.

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

14th January 2022

From: Healthcare

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