An employee of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, March 12, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
An employee of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, March 12, 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

Geneva — The UK has signed agreements to buy 90-million doses of vaccines in development by drugmakers including Pfizer, BioNTech and Valneva.

The government said it has secured access to three different vaccine candidates, and it’s setting up a programme seeking 500,000 volunteers to participate in clinical trials.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to supply 30-million doses of their vaccine candidate in 2020 and 2021, the companies said in a separate statement. They will seek approval as early as October and could produce as many as 100-million doses by the end of 2020.

The UK described the order as that alliance’s first binding agreement with any government.

“It’s the right thing to be doing to be at the absolute front of the queue to make sure we’re in a position to get those vaccines first when they become available,” education secretary Gavin Williamson told the BBC during the government’s media round on Monday.

The US has been supporting Pfizer and BioNTech’s efforts through its $10bn Operation Warp Speed research programme. The vaccine uses a new technology called mRNA, which spurs the body to create specific proteins with its own cells. Valneva’s experimental product is further behind and relies on technology it’s used in another vaccine.

Astra gains

The UK, a nation of 66-million people, already struck a supply agreement for a vaccine being tested by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford. It also said on Monday it ordered treatments containing antibodies that neutralise Covid-19 from AstraZeneca. The company’s shares rose as much as 5.2% to a record in London trading ahead of news from a clinical trial of the experimental vaccine.

France’s Valneva rose 7.7% in Paris trading, while BioNTech’s surged 6.7% in Germany.

Valneva agreed to supply the UK with 60-million doses of the shot it’s developing, and another 40-million if the product proves safe and effective.

Unlike the Astra and Pfizer collaborations, Valneva isn’t in the lead of the coronavirus vaccine race, but the French company would manufacture the product at its factory in Livingston, Scotland. The experimental shot will enter clinical studies by the end of 2020 and Valneva said it expected the UK government to help fund the research.

CE Thomas Lingelbach said the Lyon-based company might manufacture vaccines for Covid-19 beyond the UK As part of its pandemic response, Valneva plans to boost investments in its manufacturing facilities both in Livingston and in Solna, Sweden.

The Valneva vaccine uses the manufacturing technology developed for Ixiaro, the company’s shot for Japanese encephalitis. The company is also working on experimental vaccines for Lyme disease and chikungunya.

Bloomberg

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