Shares of Vir Biotechnology (NASDAQ:VIR) soared on Monday after the company announced some exciting news regarding its efforts to develop a treatment for COVID-19. Specifically, promising research findings from Vir's attempts to defeat COVID-19 were published in a paper in the journal Nature, one of the world's leading science journals. Vir's stock closed the day up by 32.1%.
The paper in question, entitled "Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 by a human monoclonal antibody" (Pinto, et al., Nature), describes how an antibody called S309 was isolated from a patient who recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) back in 2003. According to the authors of the paper, S309 "has been shown to prevent SARS-CoV-2 live virus infection of cells." This promising antibody could remain effective even if the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, at least according to Vir's Chief Scientific Officer, Herbert Virgin.
Vir is now moving forward in its quest to develop a treatment for COVID-19. The company's leading therapies for the rapidly spreading disease are called VIR-7831 and VIR-7832, and both are based on S309. Vir is collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) in this potentially lucrative project, and the two companies expect to start clinical testing this summer.
The race to find a vaccine or a treatment for COVID-19 is heating up, and investors continue to load up on shares of those companies that are at the forefront of this hunt. This explains why Vir's shares have soared by more than 200% year to date. However, there are still many roadblocks the biotech company will have to overcome before it can hope to market any treatment for COVID-19. And given that a lot can go wrong for Vir in the meantime, it might be best to watch this one from the sidelines.