Home / Artificial Intelligence / Artificial Intelligence: GSK just bet $250 million on Vir as the pharma giant and the buzzy biotech team up to hunt for coronavirus treatments and vaccines (GSK, VIR)

Artificial Intelligence: GSK just bet $250 million on Vir as the pharma giant and the buzzy biotech team up to hunt for coronavirus treatments and vaccines (GSK, VIR)

Artificial Intelligence:

Another industry-leading pharmaceutical company has joined the hunt to develop coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

The British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline announced a research collaboration on Monday with Vir Biotechnology, a small San Francisco-based biotech company. The two plan to test a potential treatment in humans within a few months and apply their understanding of the virus to vaccine development.

GSK also made a $250 million equity investment in the biotech, paying $37.73 a share, “to gain access to Vir’s technology,” the companies said in a joint statement. Vir’s stock jumped about 30% to $37.60 before markets opened on Monday morning. 

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The partnership is aiming to start testing experimental antibody treatments in humans within the next three to five months. Those antibody candidates, called VIR-7831 and VIR-7832, have shown they can neutralize the novel coronavirus in laboratory testing on virus cells.

The companies are hoping these drugs can be effective either as preventive treatments or as a therapeutic. Preventive treatment would help patients fight off infection in the first place, while a therapeutic would help infected COVID-19 patients fight off the virus.

Read more: The US is sprinting to develop a coronavirus vaccine or treatment. Here’s how 12 top drugmakers are racing to tackle the pandemic.

Artificial Intelligence: The companies will also work on coronavirus vaccines and tap artificial intelligence 

Beyond the antibody treatments, GSK and Vir will also apply their understandings about the virus to vaccine research. 

The companies will combine their capabilities in genetic screening and artificial intelligence to identify compounds that can fight the coronavirus. The two companies did not provide any timelines as to when they hope to start testing a vaccine candidate in humans.

GSK has a deep history in vaccines, as a company that sells more than 30 vaccines against 21 diseases

Previously, GSK had taken a minor role in coronavirus vaccine work, offering its adjuvant technology to other research projects. Adjuvants are essentially boosters to a vaccine that can help improve the immune response. On that front, GSK is partnering with Clover Biopharmaceuticals, a Chinese biotech, on a coronavirus vaccine.

Read more: There are more than 40 potential coronavirus vaccines in the works. Here are the top efforts to watch, including the 8 vaccines set to be tested in people this year.

Artificial Intelligence: Despite its small size, Vir continues to be a leader in coronavirus research 

Vir, led by former Biogen CEO George Scangos, has been an early leader in coronavirus work, first announcing plans to develop an antibody treatment against COVID-19 on January 22.

Despite being just a $3 billion company, Vir has stood out with a flurry of coronavirus-related activity since January. The company has since inked coronavirus-focused research collaborations with BiogenAlnylam PharmaceuticalsWuXi Biologics and the National Institutes of Health.

Scangos has even been tapped by biotech’s trade group to be the industry’s coronavirus czar. And shareholders have benefited enormously as well, with Vir’s stock increasing more than 130% since the start of 2020 — and that’s before factoring in this latest stock bump.

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