New Biotech Firm to Tackle Challenging Infectious Diseases

Company seeks to leverage technologies to address unmet needs.

Incorporating the latest advancements in immunology, Vir Biotechnology Inc was created to develop preventions, treatments, and cures for the world’s most challenging infectious diseases, according to a company press release.

Former CEO of Biogen and incoming Vir CEO, George Scangos, will head a team of scientific and industry leaders, as the San Francisco-based company seeks to apply immune programing at an unprecedented scale, according to Vir.

“The opportunity to lead Vir is one I could not pass up,” Scangos said in the press release. “This is a tremendous global need for effective therapies and preventions for infectious diseases of considerable public health importance. Success would mean alleviation of a lot of human suffering as well as meaningful financial returns for Vir investors. The science has matured to a point where exciting new approaches are at hand, and there is a need for a company to pursue those approaches with excellence, critical mass, and scale. Vir is that company, and I am very excited to take on a leadership role.”

The company will use a multi-program, multi-platform approach to apply immune programming breakthroughs that are guided by rigorous science and driven by medical need.

“The scale and scope we envision for Vir will allow us to fund targeted academic research, ramp our own research and development efforts, and write individual checks of up to $100 million to in-license innovative technology platforms and novel clinical assets from biotech and pharmaceutical companies,” said Robert Nelson, Vir founder and managing director of ARCH Venture Partners.

Lead investors in the company include ARCH Venture Partners and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They will be joined by sovereign wealth funds, public mutual funds, and prominent individuals and family offices, among other investors, according to the release. ARCH Venture Partners alone has already committed to invest $150 million.

“Tremendous innovation is needed to control and potentially cure infectious diseases, including those that disproportionately affect the poorest people,” said Bill Gates. “Vir is a unique partnership that will allow us to leverage novel technologies to address these unmet needs together.”

The World Health Organization estimates approximately 240 million people worldwide live with chronic hepatitis B, and there are millions of new infections each year. Additionally, influenza infects millions, and results in 3 to 5 million severe cases and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths. Approximately 10 million new cases of tuberculosis occur annually, and 2 billion have latent infection.

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistant bacteria infects a minimum of 2 million people, and causes 23,000 deaths in the United States per year.