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Vir Bio’s IPO Brings In $143M for Tests of Hepatitis B Drug and More

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Vir Biotechnology has joined the public markets, raising $142.9 million to support clinical tests of its infectious disease drugs.

The San Francisco firm offered 7.1 million shares priced at $20 each, which was the low end of the $20 to $22 range that it had planned. Vir shares are expected to start trading later today on the Nasdaq exchange under the stock symbol “VIR.”

IPO activity has been robust this year, particularly in healthcare. But there have been recent signs that shakiness in the broader economy might be making investors more cautious. German cancer and infectious disease drug developer BioNTech raised $150 million from its IPO Wednesday, but only after reducing the number of shares in its offering and lowering their price well below the targeted price range. And last week, ADC Therapeutics and Monopar Therapeutics halted their IPO plans due to market conditions.

Founded in 2016 and led by former Biogen (NASDAQ: BIIB) CEO George Scangos, Vir aims to bring to the market infectious disease drugs for both the developed and the developing worlds. Backed by investors that ranged from venture capital firms to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Vir assembled its drug pipeline through acquisitions and partnerships with more established pharmaceutical companies.

Vir’s most advanced compound, VIR-2218, is a hepatitis B drug. It’s currently in Phase 1/2 testing; Vir says it plans to use the IPO cash to complete the study and pay for manufacturing. The cash will also support early-stage tests of another hepatitis B drug, VIR-3434. Both drugs stimulate an immune response and direct antiviral activity against the virus. They are being developed as “functional cures,” meaning that after treatment patients are expected to have life-long control of the hepatitis B virus.

VIR-2218 is being developed in partnership with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY). Vir says in its IPO filling that preliminary Phase 1/2 results showed reductions in the protein on the surface of the virus whose presence indicates that a person is infectious. Additional data from that study are expected in the first half of next year.

Here’s more on the origins of Vir and its approach to developing infectious disease drugs.

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