Vir Biotechnology and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Develop Vaccine Antibody Technology to Fight HIV and Malaria
The new initiative will include a proof-of-concept clinical trial designed to assess the potential impact of broadly neutralizing antibodies designed to inhibit viral replication and spread in HIV-infected individuals, as well as their ability to confer a vaccine that may be applicable to sustained HIV suppression without antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Meanwhile, preclinical research will assess the technology’s potential role in preventing malaria.
The vaccine antibody concept is currently being applied across Vir’s entire pipeline of potential product candidates for SARS-CoV-2, chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and influenza A, and will now be used for treat other high-impact infectious diseases in low- and low-middle-income countries (LMICs).
Building on the 2016 collaboration
The new program builds on an existing partnership between the San Francisco immunology and virology expert and the Gates Foundation: but this time incorporates new platform technologies.
In 2016, the Gates Foundation invested in Vir to support the development of affordable and accessible prophylactic vaccine programs against HIV and tuberculosis. VIR-111, a human cytomegalovirus-based T-cell HIV vaccine, is currently in a phase 1 clinical trial.
“Vir’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a formative and critical part of our company’s history, beginning with our T-cell vaccine program targeting HIV and tuberculosis,” said George Scangos, Ph.D., CEO of Vir Biotechnology.
“This expanded collaboration in a second technology platform supports our shared goal of developing innovative solutions for the prevention and treatment of global infectious diseases. We look forward to applying the lessons learned so far on COVID-19, chronic hepatitis B virus infection and influenza to advance our efforts to cure HIV and prevent malaria.
The Gates Foundation has committed a $40 million capital investment and a $10 million grant to the vaccine antibody program.
Capital investment related to the program is made through its $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), which aims to drive private sector-led innovation, encourage efficiency-driven to market and to attract external capital to priority global health and development initiatives that improve the health and well-being of underserved people around the world. All financial returns generated by SIF are reinvested in the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic programs.
“Even though HIV has evolved from a short-term fatal disease to a chronic disease for those with access to effective antiviral therapies, there remains a significant unmet need for new advances that could enable sustained HIV suppression without antiretrovirals. . The foundation is pleased to support the development of this new vaccine antibody technology that has the potential to drive such suppression and is committed to advancing access to this cutting-edge innovation globally,” said Mike McCune, MD, Ph.D., HIV Frontiers program manager at the Gates Foundation.