CureVac, U.K. Government Agree to Develop Future Covid Shots
(Bloomberg) -- CureVac NV will collaborate with the U.K. to develop vaccine candidates against coronavirus variants, with the government securing 50 million doses of any successful shot.
The German biotech will work with the U.K.’s vaccine task force in assessing mutated strains that emerge, and clinical studies in the U.K. may be expedited for faster regulatory clearance, according to a statement Friday. The move extends the country’s investment in Covid-19 prevention as Britain races ahead of the European Union in vaccinations.
CureVac is forging partnerships in a bid to accelerate the development and roll out of its experimental messenger-RNA Covid vaccines, which are similar to the ones already being administered to tens of millions of people from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, along with Moderna Inc.
CureVac shares rose 6.7% in New York.
Amid a global scramble for supplies, vaccine makers and governments are already turning their focus to combating mutated strains of the virus amid growing concern about the threat posed by variants that emerged in South Africa, Brazil and the U.K.
The U.K. government “has been at the forefront of surveillance, vaccine development and delivery of vaccines for deployment during this pandemic,” Antony Blanc, CureVac’s chief business and commercial officer, said in the statement.
A vaccine from British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc that’s already in use in the U.K. is just as effective against the new U.K. strain as against the initial version, according to a study by the shot’s co-developer, the University of Oxford.
Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines continue to meet the U.K.’s safety standards as the country ramps up its immunization campaign, with most suspected side effects mild and short-term, according to a regulatory review that was also published Friday.
CureVac already has signed agreements with Bayer AG and GlaxoSmithKline Plc. Bayer is helping with the development, distribution and regulatory work -- and eventually manufacturing -- of CureVac’s current vaccine candidate. CureVac may update the genetic material in that shot to target mutated strains of the virus, or make it target multiple coronavirus lineages.
GSK is helping CureVac develop a second-generation shot that could also target mutated strains or multiple lineages. The companies -- which will split development costs and profits in half -- want to optimize CureVac’s platform so that the future shot, among other things, requires lower doses and is easier to transport and use.
The U.K. government partnership, meanwhile, will feed into both generations of products by providing CureVac with the latest knoweldge of which emerging coronavirus strains pose the most threat, CureVac Chief Executive Officer Franz-Werner Haas said on an investor call Friday. That should also help speed up the regulatory process for future vaccines.
In exchange, CureVac will transfer technology to the U.K. to allow for manufacturing of its future shots, along with the company’s current candidate that’s in a late-stage trial. Results from that study should be available in late March, Haas said on Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.
Some of CureVac’s shots will be produced in the U.K. CureVac expects to be able to supply 300 million doses of its current shot this year and 1 billion doses of it in 2022. Bayer is converting a plant in Germany to produce another 160 million doses in 2022, with plans to add further capacity after that.
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