GSK, CureVac to make COVID-19 vaccines aimed at new variants

GSK plans to invest US$181 million to support the research of the Germany-based CureVac, which is developing vaccines that use messenger RNA to attack the disease. 

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said on Wednesday it will work with a German biopharmaceutical company to develop new vaccines targeting emerging variants of COVID-19 amid concerns that some mutations are making the virus harder to combat.

GSK plans to invest 150 million euros (US$181 million) to support the research of the Tubingen, Germany-based CureVac, which is developing vaccines that use messenger RNA to attack the disease. “The development program will begin immediately, with the target of introducing the vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval,” a joint statement said.

GSK, which acquired a 10 percent stake in CureVac last year, will also support the production of up to 100 million doses of CureVac’s first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate in 2021, according to the statement.

A CureVac spokesman said that would firm up group’s target to produce up to 300 million doses this year.

“The increase in emerging variants with the potential to reduce the efficacy of first generation COVID-19 vaccines requires acceleration of efforts to develop vaccines against new variants to keep one step ahead of the pandemic,” the companies said.

The announcement comes as health officials around the world raise concerns about new virus variants that are more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines. This week, England is conducting house-to-house coronavirus testing in a bid to snuff out a new variant before it spreads widely. The British authorities want to test about 80,000 people in eight areas where the variant, first identified in South Africa, is believed to be spreading after a handful of cases were found in people who had no contact with the country or anyone who traveled there. The variant contains a mutation of the virus’ characteristic spike protein targeted by existing vaccines.

“We believe that next generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against COVID-19,” GSK Chief Executive Emma Walmsley said. “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.”

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