Vir and Alnylam Expand Collaboration to Advance RNAi Therapeutics for the Treatment of Coronavirus Infection, Including COVID-19

Alnylam has designed and synthesized over 350 siRNAs targeting all available SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 genomes, which will be screened in in vitro potency assays. Potent siRNA lead candidates will be further evaluated by scientists at Vir for in vitro and in vivo antiviral activity, leading to the selection of a development candidate (DC).

Vir will lead all development and commercialization of any selected DCs. At the clinical proof of concept, Alnylam will have an option to share equally in the profits and losses associated with the development and commercialization of the coronavirus program. Alternatively, Alnylam may elect to earn development and commercialization milestones and royalties on net sales of products resulting from the collaboration in amounts agreed upon for the coronavirus program. This new program expands the companies’ existing licensing agreement announced in 2017 to now develop up to six novel siRNAs to treat infectious diseases.

The companies are currently collaborating on VIR-2218 (ALN-HBV02), a novel, investigational RNAi therapeutic for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, the first program to enter the clinic as a part of the infectious disease collaboration. The safety and efficacy of VIR-2218 are currently being investigated in an ongoing Phase 1/2 study


Coronavirus: Takeda Pursues Plasma-Derived Treatment; Alnylam and Vir Eye siRNA Therapy

Coronavirus therapies, RNAi Therapeutics, covid-19, vaccines, promising drug treatment for coronavirus, corona vaccine, inovio pharmaceuticals, iRNA treatment

Two big-name biopharma—Takeda Pharmaceutical and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals—today separately entered the scramble to develop new treatments for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus identified as the cause of the global COVID-19 outbreak—adding to the 35 coronavirus treatments in development that were identified by GEN this week.

Takeda said it has begun development of TAK-888, an anti-SARS-CoV-2 polyclonal hyperimmune globulin (H-IG) designed to treat high-risk individuals with COVID-19.
Takeda’s H-IGs are plasma derived-therapies that have previously shown effectiveness in treating severe acute viral respiratory infections. Such therapies are designed to concentrate pathogen-specific antibodies from plasma collected from recovered patients or vaccinated donors in the future. By transferring the antibodies to a new patient, Takeda reasons, a person’s immune system can better respond to the infection and increase their chance of recovery.

“We have identified relevant assets and capabilities across the company and are hopeful that we can expand the treatment options for patients with COVID-19 and the providers caring for them,” Rajeev Venkayya, MD, president of Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit and co-lead of the company’s COVID-19 response team, said in a statement. “As a company dedicated to the health and well-being of people around the world, we will do all that we can to address the novel coronavirus threat.”

To that end, Takeda said, it has begun talks with health and regulatory agencies and healthcare partners in the U.S., Asia, and Europe to quickly advance its research into TAK-888. Those talks will include how to access plasma from people who have successfully recovered from COVID-19, or who have been vaccinated once a vaccine is developed since these donors would have developed antibodies to the virus that could potentially prevent illness in COVID-19 patients, or at least mitigate its severity.


INO-4800 by Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology

Inovio Pharmaceuticals has collaborated with Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology Company to advance the development of the former’s vaccine, INO-4800, as a novel coronavirus vaccine. The company has started pre-clinical testing for clinical product manufacturing.
The vaccine development is supported by a $9m grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Inovio announced an accelerated timeline for the development of the vaccine on 03 March. Preclinical trials are ongoing and the design for human clinical trials has been completed. The company has also prepared 3,000 doses for human clinical trials planned to be conducted across the US, China, and South Korea.  Plans for large-scale manufacturing have also been developed.

Human clinical trials in 30 healthy volunteers are expected to commence in April 2020 in the US, followed by China, and South Korea. A phase one clinical trial is planned to be conducted in parallel in China, by Beijing Advaccine. Results from the clinical trials are expected to be available in September 2020.

Inovio aims to produce one million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020 to perform additional clinical trials or emergency use.


Promising drug treatment for Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2)

Research is ongoing. But a successful therapy for COVID-19 patients still needs to be found. The healthcare system is currently under enormous pressure due to the lack of treatment options. In particular, the elderly and people with health problems who are more severely affected must be attended to first, as Professor Harald Kessler from the Medical University of Graz (in Austria) explains.

Drugs that have already proved effective against the precursor viruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV seem promising. A protease inhibitor in the anti-HIV treatment from the pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie has shown some initial success, says Kessler, a laboratory physician. The effectiveness of this drug against the current Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is presently being tested in trials.

Since mid-February, the lung infection that broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan has been called COVID-19, a name that has gained worldwide acceptance. The virus is known as SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) because of its similarity to the precursor SARS-CoV virus.


Moderna CEO Says Its Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Affordable

As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to spread, demand keeps growing for effective treatments and vaccines. Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA), one of the only companies with a vaccine in clinical trials for SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes the disease), made news Wednesday when its CEO said that his company’s vaccine would be affordably priced.

Stephane Bancel said in an interview with Business Insider that he plans to price the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, known as mRNA-1273, in line with other vaccines for respiratory infections. Although he didn’t offer an exact figure, one can look to prices for other vaccines, such as a pneumonia treatment, Prevnar 13 which has an average cost of around $240, to get a rough idea of what Bancel might be thinking.

“We are highly aware this is a public-health issue, and so we will be very thoughtful about setting a price if this product gets to approval. There is no world I think where we would contemplate pricing this higher than other respiratory virus vaccines,” said Bancel.

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses shot past 95,000 on Wednesday. While the growth rate of cases in mainland China appears to have slowed down, the numbers in countries such as South Korea, Italy, and Iran have surged in the past week.