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GSK and CureVac sign £132m deal to develop multi-variant Covid vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline and Germany’s CureVac have reached a €150m (£132m) agreement to develop a next generation of Covid-19 vaccines targeting new emerging variants in the pandemic.

The two companies said they plan to work jointly to develop a vaccine that can address “multiple emerging variants in one vaccine”.

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GSK, the UK’s second biggest pharmaceutical company, will also support the manufacture of up to 100m doses of CureVac’s first-generation Covid-19 vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, this year.

The exclusive agreement will lead to GSK and CureVac contributing resources and expertise to research, develop and manufacture a number of vaccine candidates, with the target of introducing the new vaccine next year. The project will develop mRNA vaccines, which inject genetic material into the body that contains the instructions to make the spike protein of the coronavirus. In response to these proteins, the body’s immune system is activated, offering protection against the coronavirus.

The companies said the increase in emerging variants that are more resistant to the current vaccines being administered, such as the variant first identified in South Africa, means the scientists need to “accelerate efforts” to develop new vaccines.

“We believe that next-generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against Covid-19,” said GSK’s chief executive, Emma Walmsley. “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.”

The aim is for the next generation of new vaccines to be used to either protect people who have not been vaccinated or to serve as a booster “in the event that Covid-19 immunity gained from an initial vaccination reduces over time”.

GSK will have the exclusive rights to develop, manufacture and commercialise the new vaccine in all countries except Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The company will make an initial upfront payment of €75m and a further payment of €75m “conditional on the achievement of specific milestones”.

“With the help of GSK’s proven vaccine expertise, we are equipping ourselves to tackle future health challenges with novel vaccines,” said Franz-Werner Haas, the chief executive at CureVac.

Last month, GSK and its French partner Sanofi said the vaccine they are jointly developing would be delayed until the end of this year after failing to produce a strong enough immunity response in older people.

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