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GSK, Vir Biotech to expand COVID-19 research partnership for other diseases

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Rebecca Spalding
·2 min read
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By Rebecca Spalding

Feb 17 (Reuters) - British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plcand Vir Biotechnology Inc will expand theirexisting partnership developing antibody therapies for COVID-19to research therapies for other diseases, the companies said onWednesday.

The companies will research monoclonal antibody treatmentsfor influenza and other respiratory illnesses as a part of theagreement, they said.

As a part of the deal, GSK will make a further $120 millionequity investment in Vir and will pay the company an additionalupfront payment of $225 million.

The companies announced a partnership last year to researchCOVID-19 treatments. Unlike vaccines, antibody treatments aredesigned to be given to patients that have been diagnosed withthe illness with the aim of decreasing the severity of thedisease.

One of the companies' experimental therapies for COVID-19 iscurrently being studied in two global final stage trials.Results from one of those studies are expected in the firstquarter of 2021.

San Francisco-based biotechnology company Vir, which is runby former Biogen Chief Executive Officer George Scangos, wasfounded in 2016 to research infectious diseases at a time whenthat area of focus was rare for cutting-edge biotechnologystart-ups.

The COVID-19 pandemic has since spurred large pharmacompanies' interest in researching new ways to combat infectiouspathogens, including influenza.

The effectiveness of standard flu vaccines varies year toyear based on how well researchers are able to predict thatseason's dominant strains months in advance. The effectivenessof the vaccine can also vary depending on the age of therecipient and other factors, according to the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention.

The companies said they would work to further develop Vir'sexperimental treatment for influenza A. The companies said thatpeople 65 and older with underlying conditions have a higherrisk of dying of the virus and that historically, vaccines havehad lower efficacy in this group.

(Reporting by Rebecca Spalding; Editing by Rashmi Aich)