The new initiative will include a clinical proof-of-concept trial designed to evaluate the potential impact of broadly neutralizing antibodies engineered to inhibit viral replication and spread in people infected with HIV, as well as their ability to confer a vaccine-like effect that could be applicable to durable antiretroviral therapy (ART)-free suppression of HIV.
Meanwhile, preclinical research will assess the potential role of the tech in preventing malaria.
The vaccinal antibody concept is currently being applied across Vir’s pipeline of potential SARS-CoV-2, chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV), and influenza A product candidates, and will now be used to address other infectious diseases with high impact in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Building on 2016 collaboration
The novel program expands on an existing partnership between the San Francisco immunologic and virologic expert and the Gates Foundation: but this time incorporates new platform technologies.
In 2016, the Gates Foundation invested in Vir to support development of affordable and accessible HIV and TB prophylactic vaccine programs. VIR-111, an HIV T cell vaccine based on human cytomegalovirus, is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial.
“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,” said George Scangos, Ph.D., CEO of Vir Biotechnology.
“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.”
The Gates Foundation has committed a $40m equity investment and a $10m grant in the vaccinal antibody program.
The program-related equity investment is being made through its $2.5bn Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), which aims to stimulate private sector-driven innovation, encourage market-driven efficiencies, and attract external capital to priority global health and development initiatives that improve the health and wellbeing of underserved people around the world. Any financial returns generated by SIF are re-invested in Gates Foundation philanthropic programs.
“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,” said Mike McCune, M.D., Ph.D., head of the HIV Frontiers Program at the Gates Foundation.