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UK Signs Vaccine Deals With BioNTech and Valneva

21.07.2020 - The UK has signed an agreement to secure 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by Germany’s BioNTech and France’s Valneva. The deals, for which financial terms were not disclosed, foresee taking 30 million doses from the German and 60 million from the French company.

While Britain is the first country to strike a deal with BioNTech, the Mainz-based biotech’s co-founder and CEO, Ugur Sahin, said the firm is in advanced discussions with multiple other government bodies and hopes to announce additional supply agreements soon.       

BioNTech, which is working with US drugs giant Pfizer, was the first in the EU to begin clinical trials of its mRNA-based vaccine. Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) promised to fast-track its marketing application, following the conclusion of Phase 3 trials with German volunteers, and management believes it could have first approvals by October this year.

The German firm is building up capacity to produce 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and over 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Its mRNA-based vaccine leverages a genetic mechanism to induce the body to produce certain proteins that generate antibodies and cellular immunity.

Valneva’s approach is based on an inactivated form of the whole coronavirus. The French company’s vaccine is due to enter clinical trials by the end of 2020 and according to reports could potentially gain first regulatory approvals in the second half of 2021.

London also has a deal to buy 100 million doses of the vaccine Oxford University is developing with AstraZeneca (AZ). The first results from clinical testing of the vaccine based on a chimpanzee adenovirus were released this week and described as “promising.”

In the phase 1/2 trial with 1,077 participants, around 500 were given AZ/Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine and the same number a meningococcal vaccine. For the AZ vaccine, development of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is said to have peaked by day 28 and remained elevated to day 56, indicating an immune response.

The responses “are in line with what we expect will be associated with protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, although we must continue with our rigorous clinical trial program to confirm this,” said the trial’s chief investigator, Andrew Pollard. The test saw the strongest immune response in participants receiving two doses, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination, he added.

The US government has invested $1.2 billion in the Oxford vaccine candidate and has secured 300 million doses for itself. In June, a purchasing consortium of the French, German, Italian and Dutch governments inked a deal to buy up to 400 million doses.

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