GSK and CureVac Link on Covid Variant Vaccine

Pfizer and BioNTech to widen EU vaccine supply

04.02.2021 - Conventional drugmakers are now responding in force to the Covid-19 vaccine challenge, teaming up on different projects with different partners, contributing expertise and nailing down knowhow and rights ahead of the next pandemic. Now taking a bigger leap, GlaxoSmithKline, which is already collaborating with Sanofi, has announced a new partnership with CureVac.

As well as helping the German biotech to manufacture 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, GSK said it will collaborate with the Tübingen-based company on a next-generation vaccine to tackle emerging variants of the currently circulating coronavirus.

Under the terms of the agreement, GSK will be the marketing authorization holder for the next-generation vaccine, except in Switzerland, and will have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize such vaccines in all countries except Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

To clinch the deal, GSK has committed to an upfront payment of $90 million and a further payment of the same dimension, contingent on meeting specific milestones. The companies said their next-generation vaccine potentially ready for launch in 2022 could be capable of protecting against several strains of the virus.

For Emma Walmsley, GSK’s CEO, the key is to “make sure that we follow and get ahead of the future of this virus.”  The mRNA technology’s ability to be quickly modified and manufactured makes it a good platform for this purpose, she said.

The British drugmaker is also in talks with several other companies about supporting their vaccine efforts, Walmsley noted. In June 2020, GSK announced it would make 1 billion doses of its AS03 adjuvant available to several developers of Covid-19 vaccines and planned to increase capacity to supply enough product by 2021.

The latest announcement follows a forward thrust by Germany’s Bayer, which as CureVac’s biggest partner said it will make 160 million doses of CVnCoV at one of its plants in Wuppertal, Germany, and also offer clinical, logistical and regulatory support.

Alongside Bayer and GSK, German CDMO Rentschler Biopharma has stepped up to make 100 million doses per year of the CureVac candidate currently in Phase 3 trials as has compatriot Wacker Chemie, which will also supply 100 million doses. The biotech hopes to apply for approval in mid-2021.

GSKs’ other collaboration partner, Sanofi, has signed on to produce 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine, Comirtnaty, at its plant in Frankfurt, Germany, from August 2021.  The French and British partners have delayed a launch of their own candidate to late 2021 from mid-year, with work stalled at Phase 2. Sanofi is partnering with Translate Bio on another Covid vaccine project.

In July 2020, GSK took an equity stake in CureVac worth €150 million and made an upfront payment of €120 million for certain milestones. The drugmaker intends to use the biotech’s mRNA platform to treat other infectious diseases.

Pfizer and BioNTech to widen EU vaccine supply

In other Covid-19 vaccine news, Pfizer and BioNTech said early this week that they will be in a position to deliver 75 million more doses of Comirnaty to the EU in Q 2 than originally planned, effectively doubling the pledged volume.

The companies said their output capability has been boosted by the upgrade at a Pfizer plant in Belgium, as well as winning an operating permit for the Marburg, Germany, plant BioNTech purchased from Novartis. With Sanofi also pitching in, the duo will now supply 600 million doses to the EU 27 this year.

Two weeks ago, Pfizer and BioNTech pointed to the upgrade in Belgium as the reason they would have to cut deliveries to the bloc in the first quarter, along with a similar announcement by AstraZeneca threatening to spark a trade war between the EU and the UK.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist