Vir Biotech, Wuxi Biologics End COVID-19 Antibody Collaboration

George Scangos/San Francisco Chronicle/Getty

Vir Bio CEO George Scangos/San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images 

Shares of Vir Biotechnology are sliding following a late Friday announcement that the company has terminated a two-year-old COVID-19-related antibody collaboration with Hong Kong-based Wuxi Biologics. The study included sotrovimab, which lost Emergency Use Authorization in the United States earlier this year.

Two years ago, the two companies forged a development and manufacturing collaboration to advance and produce human monoclonal antibodies for the potential treatment of COVID-19. The partnership focused on developing monoclonal antibodies capable of binding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, first identified by Bay Area-based Vir. 

Under terms of the agreement, WuXi was tasked with conducting cell-line, process and formulation developments. The Hong Kong-based company was also expected to begin the initial manufacturing of the antibodies for clinical development.

If the companies had been successful in bringing products to market, WuXi intended to commercialize the antibodies in China, while Vir had the right to commercialize the products globally. The antibody partnership with WuXi included sotrovimab, also known as VIR-7831, for use in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. 

While the partnership with WuXi was in full swing, in May 2021, Vir and its western developmental partner GlaxoSmithKline won Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for sotrovimab, a single-dose monoclonal antibody, for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients. However, last month, the FDA revoked the EUA for sotrovimab due to data that showed low efficacy against emerging Omicron sub-variant BA.2. The revocation of EUA came months after the U.S. government acquired 600,000 additional doses of sotrovimab in January. 

Vir announced the end of the collaboration agreement with WuXi Friday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company noted that an agreement to end the partnership was reached on May 16 and that WuXi will receive a one-time payment of $7 million for the work it has put into the collaboration. Also, under the terms of the agreement, WuXi stands to receive royalties from any potential sales of sotrovimab in greater China if Vir receives approval from the regulatory agencies that govern those areas.

Vir did not provide a reason for the termination of the agreement in its filing. 

In addition to WuXi, Vir and GSK were also co-developing that particular antibody with pharma giant Eli Lilly. Last year, the three western companies struck an agreement to evaluate sotrovimab with Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab in low-risk patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. Sotrovimab and bamlanivimab target different parts of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. That combination program is currently undergoing assessment against COVID and its variants. 

Back to news