- GlaxoSmithKline will expand an infectious disease collaboration with CureVac, announcing Wednesday a roughly $180 million deal to support manufacturing of the German biotech's coronavirus vaccine and to develop second-generation candidates against emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.
- CureVac, which is in late-stage testing with its shot, joins Moderna and BioNTech in preparing for development of new mRNA vaccine candidates as the pandemic persists. The new variants, first observed in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, have mutations that could affect the immune response generated by vaccines.
- GSK, meanwhile, is adjusting after early study results disappointed for a vaccine it's developing together with Sanofi. The British drugmaker also recently agreed to end a collaboration with China's Clover Biopharmaceuticals rather than advance into late-stage testing.
One of the world's biggest vaccine makers, GSK's contributions to the pandemic response have so far been comparatively more modest and met with obstacles.
Early on, the U.K. drugmaker decided its most useful role was to share its adjuvants — chemicals that enhance the immune response stimulated by vaccination — with other developers. Most notably, GSK teamed up with Sanofi on development of a protein-based shot. The pharma also partnered with Clover and Canada-based Medicago.
While Medicago began a Phase 2/3 study of its vaccine in November, the other adjuvant collaborations have so far disappointed. Clover, which was testing its vaccine with adjuvants from GSK and from Dyanavax, chose to move forward with the latter. The Sanofi project, meanwhile, was delayed because results from a Phase 1 study showed a weaker-than-expected immune response in elderly volunteers.
GSK's collaboration with CureVac takes a different approach, focusing on mRNA vaccines similar to the authorized shots from Moderna and partners Pfizer and BioNTech.
The deal expands on an agreement announced last July that had GSK taking a 10% stake in CureVac. The two companies plan to develop up to five mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases other than COVID-19.
Now, GSK will also help produce 100 million doses of CureVac's coronavirus shot that's in testing. Bayer's already partnered with CureVac on that candidate and has agreed to manufacture 160 million doses next year.
The U.K. drugmaker, however, is laying claim to second-generation coronavirus vaccines, aiming to help CureVac develop a multi-valent shot by 2022.
The deal underscores recognition by drugmakers that combating the pandemic could take several years and require multiple generations of vaccines that match emerging virus mutations.