Vir Biotech, Alnylam Stitch COVID-19 Therapy Partnership

Vir Biotechnology Inc VIR is stepping up its COVID-19 fighting efforts and the quest has rewarded its shareholders.

Adding to its existing efforts, Vir announced Wednesday it has expanded its existing collaboration agreement with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ALNY, a pioneer in a therapeutic area called RNA interference, to develop treatments for COVID-19. The companies have agreed to use Alnylam's recent advances in lung delivery of novel conjugates of siRNA and Vir's infectious disease expertise to develop one or some siRNAs to treat COVID-19 and other coronaviruses as well.

Alnylam said it has designed over 350 siRNAs, targeting genomes of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. It expects to screen these in lab to zero in on potential siRNA lead candidates, which in turn will be evaluated by scientists at Vir, both in lab and animal models before a development candidate is selected.

Vir will be in charge of all development and commercialization, and at the proof-of-concept stage, Alnylam has an option to equally share in profits and losses associated with the development and commercialization.

Instead, Alnylam may choose to earn development and commercialization milestones and royalties on net product sales.

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"We believe RNAi therapeutics represent a promising approach for targeting coronaviruses, like SARS-CoV-2. As the leader in RNAi therapeutics, we at Alnylam are committed to doing our part in joining other biopharmaceutical companies, like Vir, to address this emerging outbreak," said Alnylam CEO John Maraganore.

The two companies have an ongoing collaboration for developing RNAi therapeutic candidate VIR-2218 for chronic hepatitis B infection, with the candidate currently being evaluated in a Phase 1/2 study.

Vir is already working with WuXi Biologics for a COVID-19 treatment. The company has identified a number of monoclonal antibodies that bind to COVID-19 and is conducting research to determine if these can be effective as treatment and/or prophylaxis against the virus.

In pre-market trading Wednesday, Vir share were rallying 11.18% to $45.55 and Alnylam was edging up 2.76% to $114.50.

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