Vir Biotechnology Showcases Data on a Potential Therapy for Influenza
By Daniel Ojeda, Ph.D.
During the IDWeek, an annual scientific conference organized in part by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Vir Biotechnology will present pre-clinical efficacy and preliminary Phase 1 clinical data showing tolerability, and prolonged half-life of their experimental monoclonal antibody VIR-2482 in treating influenza A. VIR-2482 aims to neutralize all major strains of influenza.
Vir Biotechnology, Inc. is a clinical-stage company based in San Francisco that specializes in developing therapeutics to treat and prevent infectious diseases, including hepatitis B virus, influenza A, SARS-CoV-2, Human Immunodeficiency virus, and tuberculosis. One of their investigative treatments is VIR-2482, a monoclonal antibody capable of neutralizing all major strains of influenza A that have emerged since 1918 in vitro.
Influenza is estimated to have caused between 9.3 to 45 million illnesses and between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season. By one estimated, the total economic burden of influenza to the United States Healthcare system was between $6.3-$25.3 billion dollars in 2015.
To reduce the burden of influenza, the Center for Disease Controls recommends people get vaccinated yearly as a preventative measure. The vaccine changes every year based on the strains that are predicted to be the most common during that year’s flu season. Although it is a useful tool for prevention, one drawback of the vaccine effectiveness is that a different strain than the one predicted may be the most common strain of the upcoming season. Additionally, the vaccine develops primarily antibodies that target the head of the protein hemagglutinin, which is strain-specific, and therefore, it needs to change yearly.
VIR-2482 is a neutralizing monoclonal antibody that targets the conserved stem-region of the protein hemagglutinin. In a poster presented during IDWeek, the company highlights data showing that VIR-2482 can neutralize a broad panel of viruses representing strains that have evolved over the last 100 years. Furthermore, in an animal model, treatment with VIR-2482 reduced morbidity and prevented mortality.
Additionally, preliminary data on a randomized, placebo-controlled, Phase 1/2 clinical trial showed that an intramuscular injection of VIR-2482 was well tolerated. No major adverse reactions were reported, and the company aims to determine efficacy on an upcoming Phase 2 clinical trial.
As explained by Phil Pang, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Vir Biotechnology. “The data presented at IDWeek quantify the magnitude of the urgent need for a universal influenza A-neutralizing monoclonal antibody with high efficacy. The data also suggest that VIR-2482, because of its broad influenza A strain coverage, potency, and prolonged half-life, has the potential to be the first neutralizing monoclonal antibody to address this large unmet need.”
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