Oxford adds to surge of pandemic deals, enlisting more manufacturers for COVID-19 vaccine

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With the Phase I trial of its COVID-19 vaccine enrolling patients, the University of Oxford has added two more manufacturing partners -- Merck KGaA and Halix B.V. -- to its consortia.

The move follows that of several large pharmas and biotechs that have secured manufacturing capacity before, or in parallel with, clinical testing of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in hopes of creating a quick and seamless path to market (see “Dealmaking in a Pandemic”).

Oxford’s Jenner Institute plans to enroll up to 510 people to receive its ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, which comprises an adenovirus encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that has been modified so the adenovirus cannot reproduce.

The university said its partnership with Merck KGaA (Xetra:MRK) has laid the foundation for large-scale vaccine production in two months, rather than the six months to a year it typically takes to develop a manufacturing process.

The 10L manufacturing scale process builds upon work by the partners under an initial 2018 collaboration to develop more robust and scalable adenovirus vaccine manufacturing processes.

Oxford will also leverage Halix’s Netherlands facility, which specializes in viral vector bioprocessing and has capacity up to 1,000L single-use bioreactor scale.

The university’s other vaccine manufacturing partners include Advent s.r.l. and Cobra Biologics.

Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK) are also consolidating vaccine resources. GSK agreed on Tuesday to provide Sanofi its pandemic adjuvant technology, which has large scale manufacturing capacity in place (see “As COVID-19 Vaccines Progress, Science and Policy Questions Become more Urgent”).

The U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) will fund preclinical development and a Phase I trial of Sanofi’s COVID-19 vaccine.

While BARDA received funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to fund manufacturing of vaccines and therapeutics at risk prior to trial completion, Europe doesn’t have an equivalent institution that funds pandemic and biodefense product development and manufacturing.

Manufacturing is a bottleneck for vaccines and therapeutics alike. Vir Biotechnology Inc. (NASDAQ:VIR), which has the most COVID-19 deals to date, has closed several deals to secure manufacturing capacity for its two COVID-19 antibodies (see “Vir Turns to Samsung to Ramp up Manufacturing”).

Further analysis of the coronavirus crisis can be found at https://www.biocentury.com/coronavirus.

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