Vir Biotech CEO says his covid-19 medicine offers promise for next outbreak

Vir Biotechnology Inc.’s stock has lost some of its luster after quadrupling earlier this year as competition heats up for Covid-19 antibody therapies. Yet its chief executive officer is looking ahead to the next viral scourge.

With two well-heeled competitors ahead of it, Vir has pared a February surge to a still impressive 122% leap this year. Eli Lilly & Co.’s antibody treatment received an emergency use authorization on Nov. 9 and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s therapy got its nod over the weekend. Vir’s medicine is unique because it targets a variety of coronaviruses, CEO George Scangos said.

It “has the potential not only to be effective against Covid-19, but it has a reasonable chance of also being effective against the next coronavirus outbreak,” Scangos said in an interview. An interim look at late-stage data for VIR-7831 is expected in January.

Regeneron has touted its two-antibody cocktail as being better than single-antibody treatments like those from Lilly or Vir. Yet Scangos, a former Biogen Inc. chieftain, said that while Lilly and Regeneron’s medicines block the ability of the virus to infect cells, the virus could evade these antibodies by mutating.

‘Babe Ruth’

“Would you rather have two random baseball players or Babe Ruth?,” he said. “It’s not just the number but the quality and the characteristics of the antibody.”

Vir’s antibody was developed not from a Covid-19 patient but from one who’d recovered from severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which is also caused by a coronavirus. The company chose an antibody that also works against Covid-19 and Scangos postulates that it responds to something in the SARS and Covid viruses that hasn’t changed over years of viral evolution.

He also sees potential advantage for Vir’s antibody in its engagement of part of the immune system where Lilly and Regeneron’s molecules have had less potent activity.

Baird’s Madhu Kumar, the only analyst with a sell-equivalent rating on Vir, is skeptical. He said this particular component of Lilly and Regeneron’s antibodies may be what led to some safety signals and “could trigger inflammatory cascades that could be detrimental to patients.” This particularly concerns hospitalized patients, which Vir is still studying, Kumar told Bloomberg.

Email requests for comment to Lilly and Regeneron weren’t returned.

Much of Kumar’s skepticism is tied to Vir’s valuation. Even after the stock pulled way back from a Feb. 27 record, it’s still has more than doubled this year. He’s also wary of the market for antibodies in general because successful vaccine results from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE as well as Moderna Inc. have blunted its longer term “tail value.”

Outside of Covid-19, Kumar has a positive view on Vir. “There’s a real company behind this,” he said, calling out Vir’s hepatitis B RNAi platform.

Others on Wall Street take a more optimistic view with five analysts deeming it a buy, and one with a hold rating. The average analyst price target of $55 suggests the Street expects shares may almost double over the next 12 months.

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“First of its Kind” Research on the Practice and Promise of Seniors’ Campuses of Care

Innovative model brings together a full continuum of supports and care where seniors live along with valuable social connections that have proven critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toronto, ON, Nov. 03, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — At a time when there has never been a greater urgency to find better ways to maintain the health, well-being and safety of vulnerable seniors, newly released research from AdvantAge Ontario highlights a “made in Ontario” model that has been operating successfully in communities across the province for decades.

Campuses of care (also commonly referred to as seniors’ villages) are settings that “co-locate” a mix of community-based health and social supports, along with different types of housing and long-term care beds, in one location.

“Campuses offer a sustainable and innovative solution for a new generation of seniors’ care,” says Jane Sinclair, Chair of the AdvantAge Ontario Board of Directors. “They bring services, supports and care together in one setting, which is incredibly valuable. But more importantly they are vibrant, age-friendly communities that promote friendships, social inclusion, mutual support, and positive aging.”

AdvantAge Ontario initiated a multi-year, province-wide research study of campuses of care supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health Systems Impact Fellowship and with in-kind contributions from the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) at the University of Toronto. The final report, recently published by BMC Geriatrics and titled, “Seniors’ Campus Continuums: Local Solutions for Broad Spectrum Seniors’ Care,” is the first academic research of its kind on campuses.

“This is tremendously exciting. Not-for-profit and municipal long-term care providers were early pioneers of the campus model, and this research has generated much-needed, evidence-based knowledge to guide the development of future campuses,” adds Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge Ontario.

The Association’s research identified many important advantages offered by campuses, including built-in opportunities for providers and community partners working alongside each other to communicate, collaborate, and share expertise and resources. This promotes more integrated, person-centred care that avoids unnecessary long-term care placements and hospital admissions and ensures quicker discharges when hospitalization does occur.

Moreover, by building “critical mass,” campuses become attractive partners for municipalities, businesses, faith organizations, schools and universities to access new resources, create new opportunities for on-campus and off-campus communities, encourage volunteerism, and train new generations of care workers, clinicians, and researchers.

The Association has also released an Executive Brief based on this research, titled “Campuses of Care: Supporting People, Sustaining Care Systems in Ontario”, which is intended for policy-makers, providers and others who are planning to build, scale-up or spread campuses of care.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the terrible toll it has taken on long-term care adds greater urgency to discussions on how to keep residents safe and healthy and to ensure that we have viable options for the vast majority of Ontario’s seniors who wish to continue to live as independently as possible for as long as possible,” says Levin. “Campuses are uniquely equipped not only to respond but also to lead the creation of new and

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Promise to Expand Intermountain Healthcare, Primary Children’s Hospital Pediatric Behavioral Health Services Inspires $10 Million Gift

Gift to the Intermountain Foundation will help Intermountain Healthcare and Primary Children’s expand and enhance behavioral health services to improve mental wellness in children and teens and help prevent mental health crises.

Greg and Julie Cook
Greg and Julie Cook
Greg and Julie Cook

Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Intermountain Healthcare and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital are launching a bold plan to enhance mental and behavioral health services for children and teens in crisis throughout the Intermountain West – an effort that has inspired an extraordinary $10 million gift from Utah community leaders Greg and Julie Cook.  

The Cooks’ generous and transformational gift to the Intermountain Foundation will help Intermountain Healthcare and the experts at Primary Children’s expand and enhance behavioral health services to improve mental wellness in children and teens and help prevent mental health crises. 

Suicide is a leading cause of death among children ages 10-17 years. Intermountain Healthcare’s hospital emergency departments have seen a more than 300 percent increase in pediatric mental health crises over the past eight years, and an estimated 40 percent of kids who have depression are not getting care, said Katy Welkie, RN, MBA, CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital and Vice President of Intermountain Children’s Health. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the ongoing need for additional mental, behavioral, and emotional health resources,” Welkie said. “It is our responsibility as a community of passionate, motivated, and family-driven individuals to tackle this crisis head on. Thanks to the generous gift given by the Cook family, we will continue to build on our primary promise to offer additional support for children in our community.”

For teenagers like Holland, these services are critical to achieving a hopeful future.

“I think I just stopped caring. I was living like it was my last day, every day. I didn’t feel like I had a future, or anywhere to go,” said Holland, 16, recalling her struggle before getting help from Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital’s behavioral health services. “I’m really grateful that there’s someone to talk to now.” 

With the help of the Cooks’ gift, Intermountain Healthcare and Primary Children’s Hospital will begin to offer: 

  • A new pediatric assessment, referral, and consultation service to screen, triage, and place children in the right services, both virtually and in person. Services will include both crisis response and stabilization, as well as a full array of treatment options.

  • Expansion of available care options, including a call center, TeleHealth services, and in-home crisis services. The call center will connect families to local providers and services throughout the Intermountain West.

  • A new pediatric behavioral health unit located at the second Primary Children’s Hospital campus being built in Lehi. Offering both inpatient and outpatient services, the new hospital will include a 12-bed behavioral health unit with private outdoor space conducive to healing and spiritual health. 

The new Lehi hospital location was selected to ensure the shortest drive time possible for the rapidly growing Utah County community.

“When we learned about Intermountain’s effort to

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