Fierce 15 winner Vir Biotechnology, helmed by former Biogen frontman George Scangos, is gunning for a $100 million IPO as it looks to boost its work on infectious diseases and bring Scangos back into Wall Street.
When Vir Biotechnology launched in California in January 2017, it didn’t say much about what was in its pipeline—but it picked up plenty of buzz anyway, thanks to the big names involved in the company.
Scangos, who had recently stepped down as CEO of Biogen, signed on to head the new California company as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and ARCH Venture Partners kicked in $150 million in startup capital.
Then in 2017, it emerged from the shadows and outlined the details of its pipeline focused on infectious disease. And true to form, the company has signed on more big names in biotech to allow Vir to become "a major company in the treatment of infectious disease," Scangos told FierceBiotech at the time.
It then went about penning collabs with RNAi biotech Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, another Fierce 15 alumnus, and infectious disease company Visterra, as well as four academic research labs including groups at Stanford and Harvard.
The alliances are focused on three key areas: infectious diseases including HIV, respiratory illnesses such respiratory syncytial virus and infections acquired in health facilities like hospital-acquired flu. In addition to the research deals, Vir also bought up Humabs BioMed, a Swiss company that’s developing more than 15 antibodies to treat diseases ranging from Zika to hepatitis B.
But it wasn’t done there: Despite such a short time in the spotlight, Vir saw its funding exceed $500 million by the end of 2017 and include contributions from its initial investors as well as a slate of new supporters. They include SoftBank Vision Fund (which led a $1.1 billion into Vivek Ramaswamy’s Roivant Sciences), the Alaska Permanent Fund and private and institutional investors.
The biotech industry has charted plenty of advances in fighting infectious diseases over the last few years—Gilead Sciences' Sovaldi and other cures for hepatitis C among them—but there is still more work to be done, Scangos told us after winning the Fierce 15 award back in 2017.
Vir hopes to bring new tech for fighting diseases with few good treatments from the laboratory into clinical development rapidly, he explained. "Treatments for HIV and hepatitis C have been triumphs, but there have been very few breakthroughs outside of those two. We are taking multiple compounds forward in parallel and pursuing different modalities."
At the end of last year, it kick-started a phase 1/2 trial of its gene-silencing drug for hepatitis B virus, the first clinical candidate from its partnership with Alnylam.
Now that journey, perhaps inevitability, will look to bring Vir from a quiet, private biotech into the public domain with a $100 million IPO attempt.
It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol "VIR."