Gates foundation funds Vir to develop antibody technology against HIV, malaria

Vir Biotechnology has expanded its partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to include antibody research focusing on creating a functional cure for HIV and potential a means of preventing malaria, according to a joint statement published by GlobeNewswire.

The Gates Foundation is committing $50 million toward a partnership that includes “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,” the statement said. “Additional preclinical research is planned to assess the potential role of this technology in preventing malaria.”

The Gates Foundation’s $50 million commitment includes a $10 million grant to help “in the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies,” as well as a $40 million equity investment in the foundation’s $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund, the statement said.

Vir’s partnership with the Gates Foundation started in 2018, with an initial grant of $14.88 million allocated for Vir’s T-cell vaccine program targeting TB and HIV.

‘Vaccine-like effect’

Vir is a San Francisco-based clinical-stage immunology company and BIO member that seeks to combine “immunologic insights with cutting-edge technologies to treat and prevent serious infectious diseases.” They are currently developing treatments targeting COVID-19, hepatitis B, influenza A and HIV, and this new funding would look at how their technology to produce a “vaccine-like effect” against HIV might work against malaria, the company 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,” said Dr. Mike McCune, head of the HIV Frontiers Program at the Gates Foundation.

“This expanded collaboration into a second platform technology supports our shared goal of developing innovative solutions for prevention and treatment of global infectious diseases,” said George Scangos, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Vir Biotechnology.

Vir’s other work includes a collaboration with Glaxo Smith Kline to develop sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment against COVID-19 that has FDA Emergency Use Authorization. The U.S. Government recently bought 600,000 doses of the drug to fight Omicron, Glaxo Smith Kline announced.

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