Vir Biotechnology (VIR 2.29%) is one of several biotech companies pushing rapidly to develop potential treatments for COVID-19, a viral illness that is threatening to become a worldwide pandemic. Just two weeks ago, the company announced that its researchers had identified two monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that might work on the coronavirus. Then on Tuesday, the company announced a new collaboration with a biotech based in Shanghai, WuXi Biologics, to develop them as therapies. WuXi will work on cell-line development, drug formulation and initial manufacturing for clinical trials.  

Under the deal, WuXi will have the rights to commercialize the COVID-19 antibodies in mainland China, while Vir will retain the rights in the rest of the world. Vir has not announced yet when clinical trials of the therapies in humans will start. "We are acutely aware of the importance of moving rapidly in response to COVID-19," said CEO George A. Scangos. "In the event that we are in a position to develop an antibody therapy, our agreement with WuXi Biologics enables us to accelerate advancement against this global threat." 

3-D rendering of Covid-19

Image source: Getty Images

Vir's stock is up 345% in 2020

So far in 2020, the biotech companies that are fighting the COVID-19 outbreak have been big winners in the stock market. Vir's market cap has more than quadrupled since the beginning of the year.  

Other big winners include Novavax, up 141%, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, up 34%, and Moderna, up 32%.  The largest gainer, however, has been a former micro-cap, Co-Diagnostics, up a startling 1,438% in 2020. That company, now valued at $243 million, recently received European Union approval for its COVID-19 diagnostic test.

Vir was up by more than 60% in mid-afternoon trading on Thursday.