The UK government has said it is to join forces with German group CureVac BV (NASDAQ:CVAC) to develop vaccines capable of dealing with mutations in the coronavirus (COVID-19) virus.
Britain has initially ordered 50mln doses of any vaccine developed through the collaboration, which will see the company work with the UK Vaccine’s Taskforce.
Any resulting vaccine candidates will be manufactured and distributed in the UK and its overseas and dependent territories, subject to regulatory approval, CureVac said in a statement,
Earlier this week, Curevac announce it had also agreed a EUR150mln joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) to develop mRNA-based vaccines, which is the technology behind those developed and already being administered by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
However, there has been growing concern about the effectiveness of these vaccines against new variants of the virus identified in the UK and South Africa.
The surge in new infections and deaths in Britain in recent months has been attributed to a new variant of Covid-19 while travel restrictions have been imposed to try to halt the import into the UK of the South African version.
Dr Clive Dix, Interim Chair of the UK Vaccines Task Force said: “We are constantly tracking the virus so we can identify any significant new variant as quickly as possible; therefore, as part of this agreement, CureVac and the UK Government will assess multiple virus variants and are expected to generate multiple vaccine candidates against those selected.”
Clinical studies will be expedited in the UK in order to secure emergency or conditional marketing authorisations for selected vaccine candidates against the most threatening variant viruses, the statement added.
CureVac said it will also transfer its technology to enable the manufacture of vaccines developed from the collaboration as well as to manufacture a vaccine being developed with Bayer that is in phase III trials currently.
Separately, Britain’s medicines regulator MHRA said extra trial data suggests that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC is effective in elderly people.
Several countries have refused to approve the drug for the over-65s due to the relative few numbers of that age group that took part in its Phase III trial before approval.
“Since (initial approval) we’ve seen more data coming through from AstraZeneca as more people are completing the trial, which highlights again that efficacy in the elderly is seen, and there’s no evidence of lack of efficacy,” Munir Pirmohamed, MHRA chair said.
Earlier this week, AstraZeneca said it had seen 76% effectiveness from its vaccine from a single dose for at least three months.