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Viela Bio begins clinical trials months after $250M spinoff

(kwanchaidp / Depositphotos.com)

(kwanchaidp / Depositphotos.com)

One of Maryland’s best-funded biotech companies took a milestone first step Monday, announcing it has begun clinical trials of a medication it is developing.

Gaithersburg-based Viela Bio was spun out of MedImmune, a subsidiary of AstraZeneca, last month with $250 million in financing and a promise of creating 100 jobs within five years. Monday’s announcement is a first step in the firm’s development.

“After only six months as a company, our people continue to make great strides to advance our pipeline,” Bing Yao, Viela Bio’s CEO, said in a statement.

Viela Bio was spun out of MedImmune to focus on inflammation and autoimmunity biologics, targeting pathways that are the root of disease.

In that vein, the company’s first clinical trial will evaluate the safety and tolerability of single and multiple doses of VIB9600. The drug is being developed for the treatment of adult patients with immune mediated diseases.

With trial recruitment underway, Viela is seeking between 40 and 64 healthy adult volunteers to receive either the medication or a placebo. According to government filings, Viela hopes to complete the study by May next year.

There will be at least five cohorts of eight adults making up the test groups. They will receive, through IVs, either the drug or the placebo.

Viela Bio created a stir in February when the company announced it had been spun off of MedImmune with a quarter of a billion dollars in financing. That amount alone made it the best-capitalized startup in Maryland. Most of the funding came from AstraZeneca and Chinese capital sources.

The size of the funding also ensured that Viela will be one of the most closely watched biotech companies in a growing hub in Maryland’s I-270 corridor. The state has a goal of becoming a Top 3 U.S. BioHealth Innovation Hub by 2023.  

As part of the spinoff, Viela received three clinical and three pre-clinical medicines from MedImmune. One of those included inebilizumab, which has received Orphan Drug Designation from the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency. Inebilzumab is being evaluated for the treatment of neuromyelitis optica, a rare condition affecting the optic nerve and spinal cord and is in Phase II study.

The company also made a commitment to create 100 jobs within three to five years. That pledge accompanied significant public funding directed towards Viela, including a $2 million conditional loan through the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund to assist with project costs; a $750,000 conditional grant from Montgomery County for project costs, including lab equipment; and eligibility for tax credits, including the state’s Job Creation Tax Credit.


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