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Why Vir Biotechnology Stock Is Sliding Today

By Cory Renauer – Nov 5, 2021 at 3:03PM

Key Points

  • Sales of sotrovimab in the third quarter weren't bad, but news from Pfizer doesn't bode well for the infused antiviral drug.
  • Pfizer's oral COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid looks even more effective than molnupiravir from the partners Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
  • As an infused treatment, sales of sotrovimab could stall once easy-to-administer oral treatments become widely available.

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Efficacy results for oral antivirals from Pfizer and Merck are weighing heavily on Vir today.

What happened

Shares of Vir Biotechnology (VIR -2.76%) are under pressure after the company's third-quarter earnings report. Investors unimpressed with the biotech's progress selling a COVID-19 treatment pushed the stock 14.9% lower as of 2:18 p.m. on Friday.

So what 

Vir Biotechnology reported significant progress increasing access to sotrovimab, an intravenously administered antibody treatment the Food and Drug Administration authorized in May. In partnership with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK 0.48%), Vir Biotechnology has secured binding agreements for the sale of 420,000 doses of sotrovimab worldwide.

A microscope up close.

Image source: Getty Images.

The stock is falling today, despite progress made with sotrovimab, because sales of this infusion are expected to be extra difficult in the face of two potential oral treatments for COVID. This morning, Pfizer (PFE -0.92%) told investors its pill called Paxlovid reduced COVID patients' risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to a placebo.

Now what

Pfizer's terrific news comes on the heels of a big COVID pill announcement from Merck (MRK -1.58%) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Last month we learned that treatment with molnupiravir reduced patients' risk of hospitalization or death by around 50%.

Vir Biotechnology is not resting on its sotrovimab laurels. The company is conducting multiple studies with its hepatitis B candidate, VIR-2218, as a monotherapy and in combinations. Vir has also begun a proof-of-concept trial with VIR-1111, an experimental HIV vaccine.

This biotech probably has the resources it needs to develop its burgeoning pipeline. There was $939.5 million in cash, cash equivalents, and investments on the balance sheet at the end of September.

Cory Renauer has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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