Vir has identified two antibodies that bind to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a disease that has killed over 1,100 people so far.
A biotechnology firm is inching towards a treatment for the recently discovered coronavirus after observing antibodies that bind to the infectious microbe.
Vir Biotechnology’s (NASDAQ:VIR) Wednesday (February 12) announcement discloses that the firm has identified two monoclonal antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus at the heart of a deadly outbreak of a disease in China, recently named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
The antibodies were first discovered following the 2002 to 2003 outbreak of SARS, which was caused by a virus in the same family of microbes as the one that causes COVID-19. At the time, it was found that the antibodies bound to and neutralized the virus.
Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies made up of copies of a single immune cell and can be used to detect or purify the substances that they bind to.
From the end of the trading session on Tuesday (February 11) to market open on Wednesday, Vir was up nearly 5 percent. Its share price sat at US$18.91 as of 1:40 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
The company said it is now moving ahead with research to determine whether the antibodies will work as an effective treatment for COVID-19.
“We are in the process of assessing neutralization with a pseudo-virus,” said George Scangos, CEO of Vir, in a press release. “In addition, we are working with international partners to assess the capacity of these antibodies to neutralize the live virus, SARS-CoV-2.”
The virus, first diagnosed in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, China, has killed over 1,100 people and infected 45,000 others worldwide, according to CNN.
Now Vir is looking to team up with other companies and government agencies to lock down global manufacturing capacity for a possible treatment.
“We are working as rapidly as possible and look forward to sharing more information as we have it,” said Herbert “Skip” Virgin, chief scientific officer at Vir, in the statement.
Vir said it used its library of human antibodies that bind to and neutralize other coronaviruses to find the two antibodies that bind to SARS-CoV-2. They were found in patients with unusually effective immune responses to certain infectious diseases.
As a part of Vir’s research, the firm will look into creating a therapy based on the antibodies; the company said this type of treatment is well-suited for pandemic situations.
Treatments that use antibodies differ from vaccines that work by inciting an immune response in a patient. While they are both prophylactic — meaning they prevent infections — antibody-based drugs can be used to treat individuals who have already been infected, Vir said.
The firm is also using its platform to explore new antibodies that may help it address the outbreak.
Several other pharma companies have been racing to come up with treatments too.
Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX) is one of them, and announced that it completed the first stage of designing a screening test for the disease in late January.
Meridian Bioscience (NASDAQ:VIVO) has also been working on screening; laboratories in China are using its formulation to create screening assays to measure the amount and activity of the virus.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Danielle Edwards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.