GSK says new tests show antibody drug works against Omicron COVID variant

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BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07: A general view of the exterior of the GlaxoSmithKline offices on October 07, 2021 in the Brentford area of London, England. Yesterday, the World Health Organization endorsed the company's malaria vaccine, Mosquirix, the first developed for any parasitic disease. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Benefits of sotrovimab has not been seen in patients hospitalized due to a severe case COVID-19. Photo: Getty Images

GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK.L) said its antibody drug sotrovimab worked against all 37 identified mutations to date of the recently identified Omnicron COVID-19 variant.

The pharma giant has been working on the drug with US-based Vir Biotechnology.

"From the outset of our collaboration with Vir we hypothesized that sotrovimab would have a high barrier to resistance and thus could deliver best-in-class potential for the early treatment of patients with COVID-19,” said Dr Hal Barron, chief scientific officer at GSK.

“These pre-clinical data demonstrate the potential for our monoclonal antibody to be effective against the latest variant, Omicron, plus all other variants of concern defined to date by the WHO, and we look forward to discussing these results with regulatory authorities around the world."

However, benefits of sotrovimab has not been seen in patients hospitalised due to a severe case COVID‑19, and it's not authorised for use in patients who are hospitalised or require oxygen due to the virus.

Sotrovimab is authorised for emergency use in the United States and in Japan while temporary authorisations have been granted in a dozen countries.

GSK's shares ticked up on Tuesday afternoon. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK
GSK's shares ticked up on Tuesday afternoon. Chart: Yahoo Finance UK

GSK and Vir recently submitted the Marketing Authorisation Application to the European Medicines Agency and have signed an agreement with the European Commission to supply doses of sotrovimab. Additional agreements are yet to be announced due to confidentiality or regulatory requirements.

In April 2020, Vir and GSK partnered up to develop solutions for COVID-19 using Vir's proprietary monoclonal antibody platform technology to accelerate existing and identify new anti-viral antibodies that could be used as therapeutic or preventive options to help address the current pandemic as well as future outbreaks.

The companies will also leverage GSK's expertise to identify anti-coronavirus compounds that target cellular host genes and research coronavirus vaccines.

GSK is working with Sanofi Medicago and SK bioscience on using it as an adjuvant for protein-based vaccine candidates, which all are now in phase III clinical trials.

Read more: European stock markets rise as traders shrug off Omicron concerns

The company explained that the use of an adjuvant – a substance that strengthens the body's immune response – could reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced.

GSK is also working with CureVac on "next - generation, optimised" mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 with the potential to address multiple emerging variants in one vaccine.

In October, GSK delivered better-than-expected third quarter results thanks to double-digit sales growth in its pharmaceuticals and vaccines divisions as well as continued cost-cutting.

Pharmaceuticals sales rose by 5.5% to £4.4bn, and its vaccines unit saw sales growth of 7% to £2.2bn.

The company now expects 2021 adjusted earnings per share to decline by between 2% and 4% at constant exchange rates, excluding any boost from its COVID-19 offerings. It had previously expected profit to fall by mid-to-high single digit percentages.

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