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Gates Foundation supports HIV and malaria research

Vir Biotech has launched a new antibody research initiative, expanding its partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to include the advancement of new innovations for HIV and malaria treatment.

The new commitment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports the development of Vir Biotech’s ‘vaccinal antibody’ technology, a significant tool in combatting global infectious diseases. Vir’s antibody research initiative aims for a functional cure for HIV and for the prevention of malaria.

The expansion of Vir’s partnership with the foundation will include the advancement of innovative platform technologies for the development of ‘broadly neutralising antibodies”. These antibodies will aim to provide a ‘vaccinal effect’ for the treatment of HIV and the prevention of malaria. The programme will combine Vir’s extensive expertise of viruses and immune systems with the Gates Foundation’s established global health leaders to address two of the world’s most challenging infectious diseases.

“Even though HIV has gone from being a near-term fatal disease to a chronic condition for those who have access to effective antiviral therapies, there remains a significant unmet need for new advances that could enable durable antiretroviral-free suppression of HIV,” explained Mike McCune, head of the HIV Frontiers Program at the Gates Foundation. “The foundation is pleased to support the development of this novel vaccinal antibody technology that has the potential to result in such suppression and is committed to advancing access to this cutting-edge innovation globally.”

Supporting this effort, the Gates Foundation has committed a $40 million equity investment and a $10 million grant. The initiative will evaluate the potential impact of broadly neutralising antibodies. These antibodies are engineered to stop viral replication and spread in people infected with HIV.

More preclinical research aims to look at the potential role of this technology in the prevention of malaria. The concept of ‘vaccinal antibodies’ is currently being applied across Vir’s SARS-CoV-2, chronic hepatitis B virus and influenza A product candidates.