HHS preps for potential pandemics, gives Vir Biotechnology chance to make up to $1B in multiyear contract

The U.S. government granted Vir Biotechnology a multiyear contract and the chance to make up to $1 billion in efforts to respond to public health emergencies and prepare for future pandemics prompted by the flu or other infectious diseases.

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded Vir an initial $55 million. The money will fuel development of VIR-2482, an investigational prophylactic monoclonal antibody for seasonal and pandemic flu viruses.

The money will help Vir launch a phase 2 preexposure trial, set to start this year. Vir anticipates an initial data readout in mid-2023.

VIR-2482 is designed to be a universal prophylactic for influenza A, the only flu virus known to cause pandemics. The asset incorporates technology from Xencor and is engineered so a single dose has the potential to offer protection for the entire flu season.

Last year, Vir signed a collaboration deal with GSK for VIR-2482, giving the Big Pharma the exclusive option to lead post-phase 2 development and commercialization of the asset. GSK paid $225 million cash in the deal, which aims to develop new therapies for respiratory viruses.

The two companies are no strangers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, GSK and Vir collaborated on sotrovimab, also known as Xevudy. The oral antiviral received FDA emergency authorization in May 2021 for mild to moderate COVID-19, though the authorization was revoked nearly a year later as new variants emerged.

Vir’s newest multiyear contract with the U.S. government leaves room for a potential total investment of up to $1 billion for other emerging infectious disease or medical countermeasure candidates.