May 4, 2020 / 12:24 PM / 21 days ago

Vir, Alnylam plan human trials by year-end for potential COVID-19 therapy

(Reuters) - Vir Biotechnology Inc and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc plan to begin human testing of their COVID-19 drug candidate by the end of the year, as drugmakers across the globe scramble to find therapies for the highly-infectious virus.

The are currently no approved treatments or vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has infected over 3.5 million and claimed nearly 247,000 lives.

The companies’ therapy candidate, VIR-2703, takes a new approach to potentially treating the virus by using RNA interference (RNAi) technology that targets and silences specific genetic material, blocking the production of deadly proteins that cause diseases.

Alnylam specializes in developing RNAi drugs and currently has two FDA-approved drugs, Givlaari and Onpattro, for treating rare genetic diseases.

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed emergency use of malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral drug remdesivir in COVID-19 patients. (bit.ly/3dbfFXl)

Shares of Vir Biotech climbed 4.3% to $29.10, while Alnylam’s stock rose 1.6% to $131 in premarket trading.

Vir and Alnylam also plan to identify up to three additional drug candidates to treat COVID-19, and potentially other coronavirus diseases, as part of their expanded collaboration.

The companies plan to meet with the FDA and other regulatory authorities to discuss accelerating their filing for starting trials of their inhaled therapy.

Vir received a $250 million investment from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc last month as part of a collaboration to develop antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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