Virna Therapeutics and University of Toronto Announce Licensing of Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibodies to Treat COVID-19

BOSTON & TORONTO--()--Virna Therapeutics announces that they are partnering with University of Toronto to in-license neutralizing antibodies, to treat COVID-19. The discovery was made in the laboratory of Sachdev Sidhu, PhD., a professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and founder of the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre.

The speed and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the urgent need for better methods for developing and testing novel therapeutics. The crisis has presented severe challenges to global health but has also provided an opportunity to integrate advanced methods. “The speed with which SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies were produced and validated highlights the robustness of the Donnelly Centre antibody engineering platform and its ability to address urgent health challenges like COVID-19,” says Brenda Andrews, Director of the Donnelly Centre. "The partnership with Virna Therapeutics is the latest in a string of industry collaborations allowing our investigators to translate their discoveries into new therapies."

The founders of Virna Therapeutics include Dr. Sachdev Sidhu (Chief Scientific Officer), leader of the discovery and development process, Suresh K. Jain, PhD. (President and Chief Executive Officer), a Boston-based serial biotech entrepreneur with a track record of success in building world-class organizations and teams, and Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD., PhD., FRCP, a famed cancer molecular geneticist and RNA therapy expert.

Virna Therapeutics has a three-pronged strategy to target the COVID-19 virus: (1) neutralizing antibodies that will prevent the virus from entering host cells, (2) CRISPR/Cas13d-based and LNA-based technologies for the treatment and prevention of RNA virus infection and (3) novel protease inhibitors that will prevent replication and release from host cells.

“Virna has prioritized developing potent and highly selective neutralizing antibodies against spike proteins and plans to clinically test these leads within the next three to four months” says Dr. Jain. We aim to become the world’s leading expert in the development of novel, best-in-class, anti-viral therapies based on synthetic antibodies, small molecules and RNA medicine.”

Dr. Sidhu adds, “Besides antibodies against spike protein, we also have several antibodies that target additional epitopes on the spike protein and are exploring those in functional assays. We are confident that the targeting of the key epitope will be a very effective therapy, but we still have a long-term interest in achieving a complete understanding of the various epitopes that can be recruited for therapy.”

About University of Toronto

Founded in 1827, the University of Toronto is Canada’s leading institution of discovery and knowledge. Located at U of T, the Donnelly Centre is a research institute where scientists from diverse fields make discoveries to improve health. It houses the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre (TRAC), which produces a variety of antibodies to support academic collaborations, industry partnerships and to help seed promising start-up companies. U of T’s Innovations & Partnership Office (IPO) is responsible for the negotiation and licensing of biologics from the university and represents U of T in its commercial transactions with VIRNA. For more information about the Donnelly Centre, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Virna
Virna Therapeutics Inc. is a privately held biotech company specializing in multi-pronged discovery technologies. While Virna is researching multiple approaches for treating infectious diseases, their validated synthetic antibody technology is a powerful platform enabling efficient generation of fully-human monoclonal antibodies. The company is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts and has a registered office in Montreal;


Suresh Jain

Release Summary

Virna Therapeutics and University of Toronto Announce Licensing of Neutralizing Monoclonal Antibodies to Treat COVID-19


Suresh Jain