GlaxoSmithKline doubles down on CureVac's mRNA tech, bets $180M on the hunt for next-gen vaccine
As new variants highlight the possibility that we will have to live with Covid-19 forever, GlaxoSmithKline is doubling down on its CureVac partnership in search of an mRNA vaccine of the future.
And if it all goes smoothly, GSK might have a blockbuster vaccine all of its own in 2022.
Bankrolled with $180 million (€150 million) from GSK, the new co-development pact will see both companies contributing resources and expertise toward a number of new mRNA vaccine candidates — “including multi-valent and monovalent approaches.” €75 million of that is paid upfront and the rest is in milestones.
In addition, the pharma giant says it will leverage a manufacturing network in Belgium to support CureVac in the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of its current shot in 2021, joining Bayer in backing the biotech’s production.
Even though the leading mRNA players say their vaccines are still able to protect against new coronavirus variants emerging in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, data from them and other developers suggest they may not be as potent as they are against the original version of the virus that the vaccines had been designed for.
GSK’s goal, it says in a statement, is to both cover those existing variants while enabling a quick response to any others that could pop up in the future. The next-gen vaccine from the CureVac platform is expected to reach the market in 2022, and GSK will be the owner in most markets except Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Although CureVac has fallen significantly behind Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in bringing a first-gen Covid-19 vaccine to the market — with a Phase IIb/III trial still ongoing — GSK has previously bet that its lower dose, manufacturability and stability at standard refrigerator conditions can offer superior solutions in other infectious diseases.
The new deal signifies the thinking that Covid-19 vaccination won’t be a once and done matter — even if the pandemic abates.
“We believe that next generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against COVID-19,” GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said.
Her company has stumbled on a couple battles along the way. GSK jumped into the vaccine hunt early by offering its adjuvant to researchers testing recombinant protein-based jabs, only to run into a major delay with its big Sanofi collaboration and, more recently, drop a second deal with Clover after the Chinese partner opted to take a different adjuvant into later stages of testing.
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