GERMANY –CureVac and GlaxoSmithKline have signed on to a German pandemic contingency plan to reserve mRNA production capacity for years to come as they take another stab at a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine.
GSK and CureVac will supply mRNA vaccines to the German federal government as part of “a broader tender for pandemic preparedness in Germany.”
The companies will provide the German government with access to CureVac’s manufacturing capacity until 2029 after a maximum two-year setup period.
CureVac and GSK will be able to rapidly deploy 80 million mRNA shot doses annually under the terms of the agreement “during the remainder of the current pandemic or in future infectious disease outbreaks,” the partners said in a release.
The move aims to avoid supply bottlenecks that were common in the early days of the pandemic, according to the partners.
Following successful setup of GSK and Curevac’s mRNA muscle, Germany will pay the partners an annual standby fee, which entails maintaining production capacity “at constant readiness.”
GSK and CureVac did not specify how much they will be compensated for their efforts.
BioNTech, a local mRNA rival and Pfizer vaccine partner, also struck a deal with the German government on Friday to maintain annual manufacturing capacity for 80 million vaccine doses over a five-year period.
The pandemic “underscored the importance of having access to innovative technology platforms, such as mRNA technology, as well as corresponding robust manufacturing capacities to rapidly develop and deliver life-saving vaccines—particularly as a protective measure in case of future infectious disease emergencies,” Franz-Werner Haas, chief executive officer of CureVac, said in a statement.
CureVac has been talking up mRNA’s manufacturing perks and flexibility since the pandemic’s early days.
Aside from swift development of new vaccines, the “beauty” of the mRNA platform is that the production process is “universal,” Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, CureVac’s chief technology officer, said early last year.
“If you invest in huge production capacity, you can produce different vaccines in the same plant,” Fotin-Mleczek said, without needing to “start from scratch” or switch production processes.
Meanwhile, the move comes as CureVac prepares for a second attempt at an mRNA shot with partner GSK, following the cancellation of its first vaccine candidate last October.
CureVac abandoned its initial mRNA contender after the shot delivered an efficacy range of less than 50% — far below the original 90% seen in early mRNA readouts from others.
Despite this, the partners have recently begun dosing patients in clinical trials of their “second-generation” candidate, CV2CoV.
The decision comes after a preclinical study in monkeys revealed that the vaccine elicited an immune response comparable to natural infection.
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