GSK nixes next-gen COVID-19 antibody collaboration, leaving Vir to fly solo, seek new partners

GSK is trimming its ties to Vir Biotechnology, walking away from COVID-19 antibody and vaccine research projects while continuing to collaborate on two pandemic assets and programs against other respiratory diseases.

In April 2020, GSK identified Vir as a key part of its response to the pandemic. With an initial $250 million investment, GSK partnered with the infectious disease specialist to advance a pair of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies as part of a four-year pact. The following year, GSK paid $225 million upfront—and invested another $120 million—to expand the collaboration to cover influenza and other respiratory diseases. 

Now, with the COVID-19 opportunity rapidly receding, GSK is pulling back from the project. The partners have agreed to eliminate the COVID-19 vaccine program from the agreement they entered into in 2020 and to remove all assets other than sotrovimab and VIR-7832 from the antibody side of the agreement. 

The changes kill off the chances of GSK working with Vir to create a COVID-19 vaccine or next-generation anti-SARS-CoV-2. Sotrovimab, formerly known as VIR-7831, and VIR-7832 are the two antibodies Vir was preparing to take into the clinic when GSK came on board in 2020. The FDA granted emergency use authorization to sotrovimab in 2021 but reversed the decision after omicron nullified its effects.  

Sotrovimab, sold as Xevudy, remains in use outside the U.S. The partners delivered 230,000 doses in the third quarter. GSK recorded (PDF) Xevudy sales of 2.3 billion pounds sterling ($2.8 billion) last year, compared to 958 million pounds in 2021. Vir will keep working with GSK to “ensure ongoing access to sotrovimab for patients around the world, where authorized.” The collaboration on other respiratory diseases is continuing, too.

The changes leave Vir in full control of all other COVID-19 assets previously covered by the collaboration, with its only obligation being to pay tiered low- to mid-single digit royalties on any candidates that come to market. Vir plans to continue developing next-generation COVID-19 candidates, either independently or with other partners.