(Reuters) – British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc will invest $250 million in Vir Biotechnology Inc and collaborate to develop potential treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the companies said on Monday.

Drugmakers across the globe are rushing to develop a treatment or vaccine for the fast-spreading coronavirus that has killed over 68,400 people globally. There are currently no approved treatments for the disease.

Initial focus will be to accelerate development of Vir’s investigational treatments, VIR-7831 and VIR-7832, the companies said.

The companies plan to directly start with a mid-stage trial within the next three to five months.

Experts have said it could take 12 months to 18 months to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The equity investment from GSK is priced at $37.73 per Vir share, a 10% premium to the stock’s Friday close.

GSK has so far focused on providing adjuvants, efficacy boosters that play a vital role in many vaccines, as part of its efforts to find potential vaccines against the coronavirus.

This is California-based Vir’s second partnership with a major drugmaker for the development of a potential coronavirus treatment, having last month signed a letter of intent with Biogen Inc.

Reporting by Trisha Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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