LONDON – Glaxosmithkline plc (GSK) is putting £130 million (US$164.3 million) into one of the leading COVID-19 vaccines developers, Curevac AG, acquiring a 10% stake, and will also invest £104 million cash up front to fund research and development of the company’s mRNA vaccines.

In addition, GSK will make a one-off payment of £26 million to reserve capacity at Curevac’s commercial scale mRNA vaccines manufacturing facility, which currently is under construction.

The agreement explicitly excludes Curevac’s COVID-19 vaccine and a phase I rabies vaccine. Rather it includes five unspecified mRNA vaccines and monoclonal antibodies targeting infectious diseases.

However, the deal involves the two companies pooling their mRNA expertise, and with GSK owning 10% of the equity, gives the London-based pharma a stake in one of the most advanced COVID-19 vaccines. GSK also has an interest in a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by French pharma, Sanofi SA, which is using a GSK adjuvant.

The investment by GSK follows the announcement last month by the German government that it was to invest €300 million in Tubingen-based Curevac. On the same day the company announced plans for an IPO.

U.K. inks multiple vaccine advance purchase deals

In a rush of Monday morning developments on the COVID-19 vaccines front, the U.K. government said it signed a deal with Valneva SE of Saint-Herblain, France to provide up to 100 million doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which is to be manufactured at Valneva’s FDA-approved facility in Livingston, Scotland. The agreement will lead to new investment in the facility, creating jobs in the area.

Valneva is one of the few companies developing an old-style inactivated whole virus vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The product, VLA2001, rests on Valneva’s well-established platform for its Ixiaro vaccine, which is approved for the prevention of Japanese encephalitis. The company is collaborating with Dynavax Technologies of Berkeley, Calif., to evaluate the potential use of Dynavax’s adjuvant in VLA2001.

VLA2001 is less advanced than some other COVID-19 vaccines but is due to start clinical trials before the end of 2020.

The U.K. government also became the first to sign an agreement with Pfizer Inc. and Biontech SE, making an advance purchase agreement to buy 30 million doses of vaccines coming out of their BNT162 program, in which they are taking forward four different mRNA constructs.

Making the announcement, the two companies said they expect to be ready to seek conditional marketing approval or some form of regulatory access to the market as early as October 2020.

Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of Biontech said, “We are in advanced discussions with multiple other government bodies and hope to announce additional supply agreements soon.”

Also today, Biontech announced further data from the phase I/II trial, showing that it elicits CD4 and CD8 T cell responses.

The adds to data released at the start of this month, showing participants in each of three dose groups mounted antibody responses that were greater than seen in patients who recovered from COVID-19 infections.

The U.K. government previously agreed to purchase 100 million doses of an adenoviral-delivered vaccine originating from the Jenner Institute at Oxford University that is being developed by Astrazeneca plc.

The deals were sealed after the U.K. declined to be part of the EU consortium set up by the European Commission to negotiate advanced purchase agreements for vaccines on behalf of all member states. The consortium has access to a US$2.6 billion emergency fund to make down payments.

Even though it has officially left the EU, the U.K. would have been eligible to be part of the consortium during the transition period that end on Dec. 31.

The three advanced purchase agreement mean the U.K. has now committed to buy COVID-19 vaccines based on three distinct technologies.

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