The collaboration between Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) and Alnylam (NASDAQ:ALNY) that they expanded in March to address COVID-19 has selected a treatment candidate to advance into clinical trials. The partners will seek accelerated approval from regulators to treat human volunteers with VIR-2703, also known as ALN-COV, which makes it hard for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to reproduce. 

The partners selected their candidate from hundreds of small interfering RNA (siRNA) strands that targeted different portions of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The partners still aren't sure if they want to develop VIR-2703 as a treatment for patients with COVID-19 or as an antiviral to prevent its transmission, but they do know that in the laboratory, it inhibits the production of the virus responsible for COVID-19 at relatively low concentrations. Vir and Alnylam plan to develop VIR-2703 as an inhaled formula.

Pipetting samples in a laboratory.

Image source: Getty Images.

Unfortunately, the encouraging results that they have reported so far are only the first steps in the marathon process of  developing a new drug. And regulators usually want to see safety results from lots of lengthy animal studies before they allow investigators to treat people with a new molecular entity.

The development timeline for VIR-2703 is a little fuzzy because the partners still haven't had formal discussions with any regulators about an accelerated path for advancing it into human studies. They intend to meet with the FDA soon to discuss a plan that could allow clinical trials to begin by the end of 2020.