GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Vir Biotechnology have expanded their existing COVID-19 collaboration to include a new research and development agreement, focused on therapies for influenza and other respiratory viruses.

The expanded collaboration will give GSK exclusive rights to collaborate with Vir on the development of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for the prevention or treatment of influenza.

That includes an investigational mAb – VIR-2482 – designed as a universal prophylactic for influenza A, which has completed a Phase I trial. The agreement will also includes next-generation antibodies for the prevention or treatment of influenza during a three-year research period.

While GSK will have the exclusive option to co-develop VIR-2482, following Vir’s completion and report of the Phase II trial outcomes, the company will share development costs for all other influenza mAbs.

The companies will also conduct two additional research programmes as part of the expanded agreement.

The first of these is an expansion of GSK and Vir’s current functional genomics collaboration on the development of potential pan-coronavirus therapeutics, to now include other respiratory virus targets.

The second programme will see the companies collaborate on up to three neutralising monoclonal antibodies identified using Vir’s antibody technology platform to target non-influenza pathogens.

Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will make an upfront payment of $225m and a further equity investment in Vir of $120m.

In addition, if GSK chooses to exercise its option to co-develop Vir-2482, the company will pay an option fee of $300m.

GSK and Vir initially entered into a strategic collaboration in April 2020 to research and develop therapies for coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

“We believe, now more than ever, that it is very important to develop new therapies to treat and ideally prevent infectious diseases,” said Hal Barron, chief scientific officer and president R&D, GSK.

“I am delighted that we are expanding our collaboration with Vir whose focus on novel antibodies, expertise in functional genomics, unique technology and talented scientists will further strengthen GSK’s position as a world leader in infectious diseases,” he added.