Visterra Inks $1B Deal With This Bay Area Biotech

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Two weeks after securing more than $46 million in financing, Visterra, Inc. struck a deal worth up to $1 billion with startup Vir Biotechnology, which is helmed by former Biogen Chief Executive Officer George Scangos.

The deal was a move that Visterra CEO Brian Pereira told BioSpace to expect in an interview last week. And this partnership with Vir is not the only one in the works, Pereira said.

“We’re expecting to announce additional partnerships in the future,” he said. Pereira added that the company will be “well-funded” through these deals.

Being a small company of 25 employees, Pereira said partnerships are the key to success since they can provide the resources to help Visterra move products through the clinical phase.

Under terms of the deal with Vir, the companies will use Visterra’s Hierotope technology platform to target infectious diseases. The Hierotope platform identifies epitopes to design biological medicines, Periera said. He added that the program could hold the key to one-time treatments for some infectious diseases.

“The (Hierotope) technology has expanded exponentially, which has allowed us to design and engineer a vast array of exciting and new to the world biologics,” Pereira said.
California-based Vir will license up to five research programs for infectious diseases. Those programs include:

•         VIS-FLX, a long-acting monoclonal antibody being developed for the prevention of influenza A in high-risk individuals;

•         VIS-RSV, a bispecific monoclonal antibody for the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, that is designed to both neutralize the virus and prevent its pro-inflammatory activity;

•         VIS-FNG, a bispecific monoclonal antibody for the treatment of severe fungal infections that targets fungal glycans common among most human fungi, including Candida, Aspergillus and Cryptococcus.

Additionally Vir may further expand their license by up to two additional infectious disease research programs, Visterra said.

Visterra will be responsible for leading the drug development programs. If the drugs prove successful, Visterra could grab up to $1 billion when milestones and royalties are factored into the deal. Visterra will receive an undisclosed first payment from Vir.

Of the deal with Vir, Pereira said that company’s focus on infectious disease research makes for an ideal partnership with Visterra’s Hierotope platform.

“… this collaboration will accelerate the advancement of our promising research programs focused on treating and preventing infectious diseases. In addition, this collaboration further validates the utility and robustness of our Hierotope platform and our ability to design and engineer precision antibody-based biological medicines against targets that are difficult to address by traditional techniques. We look forward to seeing these promising programs yield important drugs that will benefit underserved patients around the globe.”
Scangos also touted the Hierotope platform and its early research. He said preclinical data and early development is revealing a great promise for infectious diseases.

In addition to the funds through the Vir deal, earlier this month Visterra secured $47 million in series C financing. That funding amount includes $23 million raised in 2016 and an additional $23.6 million Pereira said the funds will be used to advance the company’s two lead drug candidates VIS410 and VIS649 through clinical research.

“Our main short-term goals are to move these drugs through the clinic,” he said.

Vir was not only interested in harnessing the power of the Hierotope platform, the company also expressed interest in the VIS410 program. As part of the deal, Visterra granted Vir an option to take a minority interest in the monoclonal antibody aimed at treating hospitalized patients with Influenza A. Under the terms, Vir could co-promote VIS410 in select territories, the company said. Visterra is currently conducting a Phase 2a clinical trial of VIS410 in ambulatory patients with influenza A, with funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Top-line results are expected next year. Additionally a Phase IIb clinical trial of VIS410 in hospitalized patients with influenza A is expected to launch in early 2018.

VIS410 could be the first legitimate one-time treatment for influenza A, Pereira said.

“Influenza A is a serious disease. There are roughly 200,000 hospitalizations for influenza-A and about 500,000 deaths. In the 1980s, about 50 million people died from it,” Pereira said.

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