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Glaxo (GSK)/Vir Biotech to Develop Antibodies for Influenza

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GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK - Free Report) and its partner Vir Biotechnology, Inc. (VIR - Free Report) announced that they have signed a binding agreement to expand their existing collaboration to advance new therapies for influenza and other respiratory viruses.

We note that Glaxo/Vir Biotech are already developing two monoclonal antibody (mAb) candidates - VIR-7832 and VIR-7831, as a potential treatment of COVID-19 under their existing coronavirus collaboration agreement.

With the expanded collaboration, the companies are looking to develop VIR-2482, an intramuscularly administered investigational mAb for treating influenza A. The companies will also develop next-generation antibodies for the prevention/treatment of influenza over a research period of three years.

Per the latest agreement,Glaxo will make an upfront payment of $225 million along with an equity investment worth $120 million in Vir Biotech. Also, Glaxo will have an exclusive option to co-develop VIR-2482 after Vir Biotech completes and reports phase II study outcomes. A phase I study on VIR-2482 has already been completed. If Glaxo exercises its option it will have to have to pay $300 million option fee to Vir Biotech. VirBiotech is also eligible to receive up to $200 million from Glaxo upon successful delivery of pre-defined regulatory milestones.

Both companies will share the development costs and profits related to the expanded agreement.

Shares of Glaxo have declined 2.4% so far this year against the industry’s increase of 1.1%.

price chart for GSK

Per the press release, Glaxo/Vir Biotech will expand their current functional genomics collaboration, which will now include other respiratory viruses along with potential pan-coronavirus therapies. Secondly, the companies will come together to develop up to three neutralizing mAbs which will be recognized using Vir Biotech's antibody technology platform, targeting non-influenza pathogens over a research period of three years.

Glaxo also has an agreement with Sanofi (SNY - Free Report) to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. The companies are developing their adjuvanted recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is currently being evaluated in a phase I/II study.

Zacks Rank & Key Pick

Glaxo currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).

A better-ranked stock in the large-cap pharma sector is Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) , which has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Johnson & Johnson’s earnings estimates have been revised 6.6% and 4.8% upward for 2021 and 2022, respectively, over the past 60 days. The stock has gained 5.2% year to date.

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