GSK and CureVac Take Aim at COVID-19 Variants with Second-Generation mRNA Vaccine

Walmsley_Fang Zhe/Xinhua via Getty Images

GSK Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley. Fang Zhe/Xinhua via Getty Images.

GlaxoSmithKline will partner with Germany’s CureVac to manufacture 100 million doses of that company’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, CVnCoV, and will collaborate with the company to develop a next-generation multi-valent COVID-19 vaccine aimed at emerging variants of the novel coronavirus.

The collaboration is valued at €150 million (approximately $180 million). The two companies already have a history of working together.

In July, the two companies partnered to develop up to five messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) targeting infectious disease pathogens. The terms of that deal included GSK acquiring a 10% stake in the German company.

The latest collaboration between the two companies noted that GSK and CureVac will contribute resources and expertise to research, develop and manufacture a number of novel mRNA vaccine candidates, including multi-valent and monovalent approaches.

The aim of this work is to offer broader protection against a variety of different SARS-CoV2 variants, and to enable a quick response to new variants potentially emerging in the future. The development program will begin immediately, with the target of introducing the vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval, GSK said.

This collaboration will build on CureVac's first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV, which is currently in Phase IIb/III clinical trial and on CureVac's ability to optimize mRNA for a strong immune response.

CureVac's platform is uniquely adapted to designing multi-valent vaccines with a balanced immune response and a low dose of mRNA, GSK said.

Under the terms of the new collaboration agreement, GSK will be the marketing authorization holder for the next-generation vaccine, except in Switzerland, and will have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialize the next generation COVID-19 vaccine in all countries with the exception of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

GSK Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley said next-generation vaccines will be crucial in the ongoing battle against COVID-19, which has infected more than 103 million people across the globe and led to the deaths of more than 2,255,000 people.

“This new collaboration builds on our existing relationship with CureVac and means that together, we will combine our scientific expertise in mRNA and vaccine development to advance and accelerate the development of new COVID-19 vaccine candidates. At the same time, we will also support the production of CureVac's first-generation vaccines with the manufacture of 100 million doses in 2021,” Walmsley said in a statement.

There has been increasing concern that the new variants of COVID-19, which are considered more infectious than the original strain, may not respond as well to existing vaccines.

The next-generation COVID-19 vaccines GSK and CureVac are looking at could be used to protect people who have not been vaccinated before, or could serve as boosters in the event that COVID-19 immunity gained from an initial vaccination reduces over time, the companies said. Additionally, the collaboration between GSK and CureVac will assess the development of novel mRNA vaccines to protect against multiple respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

“We are very pleased to build on our existing relationship with GSK with a new agreement to jointly develop next-generation mRNA-based vaccines, in addition to our current candidate CVnCoV. With the help of GSK's proven vaccine expertise, we are equipping ourselves to tackle future health challenges with novel vaccines,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said in a statement.

Last month, CureVac partnered with Bayer on the development of its first-generation mRNA vaccine. Under the terms of the agreement, Bayer will support the development, supply and key territory operations of CVnCoV. Bayer will contribute its “expertise and established infrastructure in areas such as clinical operations, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance, medical information, supply chain performance as well as support in selected countries,” the companies said.

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