Covid-19 roundup: Bay­er ex­pands deal with Cure­Vac to pro­duce shots; UK or­ders more Val­ne­va vac­cines

Fol­low­ing the part­ner­ships among Sanofi and No­var­tis to up­scale the Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech Covid-19 vac­cine, an­oth­er Big Phar­ma is step­ping in to help vac­cine pro­duc­tion.

Bay­er has agreed to pro­duce Cure­Vac’s Covid-19 jabs, the com­pa­nies an­nounced Mon­day, as sup­ply con­tin­ues to lag around the world. Though Bay­er won’t start pro­duc­ing the vac­cine un­til the end of 2021, the move ex­pands the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the com­pa­nies that had al­lowed for Bay­er to as­sist Cure­Vac in ob­tain­ing reg­u­la­to­ry clear­ances and in dis­tri­b­u­tion.

“We will need vac­cines be­yond the sum­mer,” Ger­man health min­is­ter Jens Spahn said at a press con­fer­ence Mon­day, per Bloomberg. “It’s pos­si­ble that due to mu­ta­tions we can­not yet pre­dict to­day, vac­cines will have to be ad­just­ed and changed. The mR­NA tech­nol­o­gy makes it pos­si­ble to do that rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly.”

This will be the first time Bay­er has ever pro­duced a vac­cine, the com­pa­ny said. With the ex­pand­ed sup­ply, the pair ex­pects to pro­vide about 160 mil­lion dos­es in 2022 from one of their fac­to­ries in Ger­many.

Ten­sions have flared among EU coun­tries in re­cent weeks over a slow­down in vac­cine de­liv­er­ies. Pfiz­er had said it was cut­ting ship­ments while it up­grad­ed a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Bel­gium, lead­ing some mem­ber states to con­sid­er le­gal ac­tion against the com­pa­ny.

And the bloc fought pub­licly with As­traZeneca over slow­downs last week, cul­mi­nat­ing in the com­pa­ny pub­lish­ing its full EU con­tract be­fore the EMA gave its shot the thumbs-up Fri­day. The cuts amount­ed to a 60% re­duc­tion from 80 mil­lion to 31 mil­lion de­liv­ered dos­es by March.

Much like the Pfiz­er/BioN­Tech and Mod­er­na vac­cines, Cure­Vac’s jabs use mR­NA tech­nol­o­gy. They’re much far­ther be­hind than those com­pa­nies, how­ev­er, hav­ing just start­ed a Phase III tri­al in De­cem­ber. Still, ex­ecs have tout­ed a small­er re­quired dose and low­er stor­age tem­per­a­ture as ad­van­tages over its mR­NA ri­vals.

Spahn has al­so said pre­vi­ous­ly that the Cure­Vac vac­cine could be au­tho­rized as soon as March should the piv­otal study re­turn pos­i­tive re­sults.

UK ex­er­cis­es op­tion for 40 mil­lion Val­ne­va vac­cines

French vac­cine de­vel­op­er Val­ne­va has se­cured an op­tion from the UK gov­ern­ment to sup­ply more dos­es.

The UK has or­dered an ad­di­tion­al 40 mil­lion dos­es for 2022 sup­ply, bring­ing Val­ne­va’s to­tal com­mit­ment to the coun­try to 100 mil­lion, the com­pa­ny said Mon­day. British of­fi­cials re­tain op­tions for an­oth­er 90 mil­lion shots be­tween 2023 and 2025.

“The fur­ther 40 mil­lion dos­es se­cured through to­day’s deal sig­nif­i­cant­ly bol­sters our port­fo­lio and gives us fu­ture flex­i­bil­i­ty should we need to re­vac­ci­nate any of the UK pop­u­la­tion,” in­ter­im UK vac­cine task­force chair Clive Dix said in a state­ment.

Should all the op­tions be ex­er­cised, the val­ue of the deal would equal €1.4 bil­lion, or about $1.69 bil­lion. On the heels of the news, Val­ne­va shares rose rough­ly 11% on the French stock mar­ket.

Val­ne­va ini­ti­at­ed a Phase I/II study of its in­ac­ti­vat­ed, ad­ju­vant­ed can­di­date VLA2001 in De­cem­ber, as­sess­ing safe­ty and im­muno­genic­i­ty at three dose lev­els in about 150 adults. Re­searchers are look­ing at a two-shot reg­i­men spaced three weeks apart.

The com­pa­ny said Mon­day the study is ful­ly en­rolled and is ex­pect­ed to read out da­ta at some point with­in the next three months.

For a look at all End­points News coro­n­avirus sto­ries, check out our spe­cial news chan­nel.

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