Virion’s mission is to transform the clinical management of human respiratory virus infections using our proprietary Therapeutic Interfering Particles (TIPs).
These first-in-class biologicals enhance a naturally occurring dual mechanism that interferes with viral replication, preventing infection and alleviating disease. Using this unique approach, we address the two major challenges in treating patients with respiratory virus infections – the sheer breadth of viruses that cause such infections and the risk of drug resistance. Based on pioneering scientific work on mechanisms for controlling viral replication, we were founded in 2017 and funded by leading trans-Atlantic bioscience investment firm, Abingworth.
A Universal Approach
The development of a treatment that can effectively treat the wide variety of viruses that cause RVIs in humans will transform the management of these common infections. Such a treatment would also provide an essential tool for management of an emergent pandemic or epidemic of a novel respiratory virus, such as those in 2009 (influenza A H1N1), 2008 (MERS) and 2003 (SARS). Virion is the first company to be able to address this huge patient need and market opportunity through its unique TIP modality.
Viral infections of the respiratory tract have a significant impact on lives across the globe. In any given year, the average adult suffers 2-3 colds, while children suffer even more. During influenza seasonal outbreaks 5-20% of the population may be infected. This equates to over a billion respiratory virus infections (RVIs), and hundreds of millions of doctor visits.1-3 Because RVIs affect so many people, the economic costs are enormous. In the US alone, more than $27 billion is spent each year on direct medical expenses, with an additional $100 billion in indirect costs related to absenteeism and premature death. The World Health Organization estimates that acute respiratory infections kill over 3 million people per year internationally, making these infections one of the top five causes of mortality worldwide.3-6 RVIs can be caused by influenza and non-influenza viruses. While vaccines and virus specific therapies are available for influenza virus infection and illness, their use is limited by variable efficacy, side effects and drug resistance. There are no available vaccines or antiviral therapies available for treatment of non-influenza respiratory virus infections, which represent approximately 85% of all RVIs.7-10 Because RVIs are caused by wide range of viruses, implementing an effective vaccination program requires multiple vaccines. Similarly, antiviral drugs are also highly specific, requiring physicians to identify the precise virus causing the patients’ illness. Modern diagnostic tests cannot deliver this information in time to be practically useful in treating patients. Lastly, the extreme mutability of respiratory viruses enables (and may even facilitate) the emergence of drug resistance, making therapy useless for patients infected by resistant strains. A treatment approach that effectively treats the wide variety of viruses that cause RVIs in humans addresses each of these challenges, and will transform management of these diseases.
Interfering viruses are spontaneously-generated mutant virus particles which interfere with the replication of the virus that created them. Virion Biotherapeutics’ lead TIP, VH244, was optimized from this natural phenomenon.
TIPs are able to penetrate cells of the respiratory epithelium, but are not able to multiply, there in the absence of infection. In infected cells they harness two mechanisms of action to shut down replication of respiratory viruses. The first is genomic interference, and the second is stimulation of the patient’s innate immunity. Through this dual mechanism, TIPs are able to address the full spectrum of respiratory viruses that cause human infection. In genomic interference, when a TIP enters a cell that also contains an infectious virus, the TIP hijacks the replication machinery of the infectious virus. By producing large numbers of (non-infectious) TIP and very few of the infectious virus, the TIP brings infection to a halt. Development of resistance to this mechanism is highly unlikely. In addition to this genomic interference effect, when a TIP enters a human cell a cascade of internal effects are stimulated, including the production of naturally occurring host antiviral proteins, such as interferon. This cascade, referred to as the innate immune reaction, acts to protect the cell and neighboring cells from further virus attack, to switch off virus replication and spread between cells. This mechanism applies to a broad set of interferon-sensitive respiratory viruses. By preferentially stimulating a host component of the innate immune pathway, the risk of developing resistance to TIPs is minimized.
VH244 is a Therapeutic Interfering Particle (TIP), being developed by Virion Biotherapeutics for the treatment and prevention of respiratory virus infections (RVIs). VH244 protects against and/or treats illness caused by different RVIs via two distinct mechanisms of action. Both of these mechanisms have been demonstrated for VH244 in preclinical studies in vivo. VH244 is currently being progressed towards clinical development. We believe VH244 has the potential to treat seasonal and epidemic viral infections simply and effectively, without the need to identify virus type and potentially without generating resistance to treatment.
VH244 is an optimized RNA molecule specifically that lacks an essential gene required for viral replication. Following administration to the respiratory tract, VH244 is taken up by epithelial cells. When these cells are also infected with influenza A, VH244 hijacks the replication machinery of that infectious virus so that production of VH244 out-competes the production of infectious influenza A virus, resulting in every viral replication cycle yielding more than 99% VH244 and less than 1% infectious influenza A. This cycle happens repeatedly until there is no more infectious virus to replicate and the disease is suppressed. Resistance is extremely unlikely to evolve via this mechanism.
Following topical administration to the respiratory tract, VH244 stops infection by other respiratory viruses by stimulating the innate immune system through direct production of cytokines such as type I interferon. This naturally-occurring anti-viral molecule triggers an antiviral cellular state in neighboring cells.
September 17, 2018
Virion Appoints Vanessa King as President & CEO and Isabel Najera as CSO
January 3, 2018
Virion Receives up to $4.2m from DARPA
October 12, 2017
Virion Raises Series A Funding from Abingworth
We seek passionate and talented individuals, as we are building a diverse and committed team with a common goal to transform the way patients are treated. Virion offers a fast-paced, team-oriented and dynamic work environment plus a comprehensive benefits package. Virion is located in London, one of the UK’s leading life sciences hubs, linking closely with world-class academic research institutions, venture investors and global biopharmaceutical companies.
Thank you for considering a new career with Virion. If you feel that your skills and experience are aligned to the career opportunities posted, please e-mail your resume directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the position title in the subject line of your email. We thank all applicants for their interest, but only candidates chosen for an interview will be contacted.
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Virion Biotherapeutics has operations in both the UK and Switzerland.