- Maryland-based Novavax is partnering with the contract manufacturer AGC Biologics as it works to ramp up production of an experimental vaccine to prevent coronavirus infections.
- AGC will focus on manufacturing Matrix-M, an adjuvant used as part of Novavax's vaccine candidate. The deal will "significantly increase" capacity as Novavax targets delivering vaccine doses in 2020 and 2021, AGC said in a June 3 statement.
- Novavax is one of the smaller players in the global push to develop an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, and needs to boost its manufacturing capabilities to keep pace. Deals with Emergent BioSolutions and AGC, as well as a recent acquisition of Praha Vaccines, are meant to help with that effort.
Novavax needs help from outside manufacturers to compete with vaccine industry giants such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi. After three decades of work, the Maryland-based biopharma is close to bringing its first to market, but it doesn't have experience making or distributing a vaccine on a global scale.
The company has now made three moves since the end of March to help with the production of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. First, it expanded an existing deal with Emergent BioSolutions to include its coronavirus work. Then, last week, Novavax bought Praha Vaccines for $167 million, gaining a biologics manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic. Now it has added a new agreement with AGC.
Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine is one of at least 10 currently undergoing human testing. Researchers are evaluating its safety and the immune responses it generates in about 130 patients in Australia, comparing a version with the Matrix-M adjuvant and one without it against a placebo.
Most of the other high-profile experimental COVID-19 vaccines aren't using adjuvants, which are designed to boost the immune system's response to a vaccine. One notable exception is a joint effort that combines Sanofi's COVID-19 vaccine with GlaxoSmithKline's adjuvant technology.
The Trump administration is pushing vaccine manufacturers to move at an unprecedented pace to fight the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. As part of the push, companies are ramping up plans to produce millions of doses of vaccines that aren't yet fully tested; the hope is that large swaths of the population can be vaccinated quickly once there is a proven product.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the Trump administration has identified five companies — Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — as most likely to succeed and is working to help speed their development
There are also two more pharmaceutical companies involved in the White House's "Operation Warp Speed" initiative that haven't been publicly identified, Bloomberg reported, citing two people familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is involved in Operation Warp Speed, declined to comment on the reports.
Novavax is getting help for its coronavirus vaccine from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which has committed to spending as much as $388 million to advance development.