Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac (CVAC) announced a €150m (£132m, $181m) partnership to develop next generation mRNA vaccines for new strains of COVID-19 “to keep one step ahead of the pandemic.”
“GSK and CureVac will contribute resources and expertise to research, develop, and manufacture a number of novel mRNA vaccine candidates,” CureVac said.
“The increase in emerging variants with the potential to reduce the efficacy of first generation COVID-19 vaccines requires acceleration of efforts to develop vaccines against new variant,” it added.
Development will begin immediately, with the target of introducing the vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval.
The vaccine they develop can either be used to protect people who have not been vaccinated before, or to serve as boosters if immunity gained from an initial vaccination reduces over time.
Emma Walmsley, GSK CEO, said: "We believe that next generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against COVID-19. This new collaboration builds on our existing relationship with CureVac and means that together, we will combine our scientific expertise in mRNA and vaccine development to advance and accelerate the development of new COVID-19 vaccine candidates.”
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The collaboration will build on CureVac's first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV, which is currently in clinical trial.
GSK will also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of CVnCoV in 2021.
Under the terms of the deal, GSK will be the marketing authorisation holder for the new vaccine, except in Switzerland, and will have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialise the vaccine in all countries with the exception of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
GSK will make an upfront payment of €75m and a further payment of €75m conditional on the achievement of specific milestones.
The number of COVID-19 vaccine shots given in the UK has now passed 10 million, according to latest government figures show, even as scientists worry a more transmissible coronavirus variant in the UK is evolving further mutations could make current vaccines less effective.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca (AZN.L) last week agreed to publish its COVID-19 contract with the European Union, following pressure from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
The block had asked the pharmaceutical firm to send some doses manufactured in Britain to the continent to make up the shortfall, but AstraZeneca says this would breach its contract with the UK.
Britain, which has been dragged into the tussle between the EU and AstraZeneca has said that it expects to receive its vaccine doses to keep Britain’s inoculation programme on track.
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