- Recently launched Vir Biotechnology Inc. is linking up with some more established partners in an effort to fill its pipeline. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. is one of those collaborators, while infectious disease biotech Visterra Inc is the other.
- The big-cap biotech has decided to ditch its early-stage hepatitis B candidate ALN-HBV and pursue another treatment for the disease, ALN-HBV02, which Vir is responsible for taking from proof-of-concept through Phase 2 testing. Vir may also exclusively license from Alnylam up to four more RNAi therapies that work against infectious diseases.
- Vir now has the option to help develop Visterra Inc.'s drug for hospitalized patients with influenza A. Additionally, the smaller company holds exclusive rights to five antibodies targeting influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and fungal infections, as well as two more, undetermined pathogens. Both Visterra and Alnylam could each receive $1 billion in milestone payments from the respective partnerships.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Biogen acquired Remedy Pharmaceuticals' Cirara (intravenous glyburide) while under the leadership of former CEO George Scangos.
Vir may be new to the scene, but it's clearly not afraid of dealmaking. That mindset may have something to do with its CEO, George Scangos, the former head of Biogen Inc.
Under Scangos' leadership, Biogen entered into some big-ticket M&A, including a $675 million takeover of GlaxoSmithKline plc's spinout Convergence Pharmaceuticals Ltd., and an option to acquire Rodin Therapeutics Inc. for $485 million.
These deals and others, pushed Biogen into high-risk development areas and pulled focus away from the company's blockbuster multiple sclerosis franchise. Pushing further into risky therapeutic areas like Alzheimer's disease also unnerved some investors. After more than six years of leading Biogen, Scangos said he was stepping down last July and returning to the West Coast to "take on one more set of activities."
Those activities appear to be running Vir and fleshing out its pipeline. Through the deals announced Wednesday, the San Francisco-based biotech snags a minority stake in Visterra's VIS410, which is currently in Phase 2 testing, as well as Alynylam's preclinical ALN-HBV02.
“Vir is a science-driven company," Scangos said in an Oct. 18 statement. "We are building outstanding internal R&D, which we have coupled with nimble business development, to establish a diversified technology base as well as an exciting pipeline."
Scangos also said Vir is on the lookout for more mid- to late-stage drugs. The company plans to push "several compounds" into in-human testing over the next year and a half, and has secured an option to acquire another mid-stage drug for flu.
"I am pleased that in our first year we have been able to align leading ideas, technology and expertise focused on transforming the care of people with serious infectious diseases and providing a return to our investors," he said.
Vir's collaborators also have much to gain from the deals. Both may take home up more than $1 billion in potential milestone payments and commercial royalties. Alnylam also revealed it had received an undisclosed upfront payment.
While Alnylam is best known for its RNAi treatments for rare disease, the company has also been on the lookout for partners to develop treatments for infectious liver diseases.
Vir, helmed by an industry vet and funded with more than $500 million from the likes of ARCH Venture Partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Alta Partners, can help fill that need.