As U.K. secures access to two more vaccines, task force Chair Bingham says more to come

U.K. Vaccine Taskforce Chair Kate Bingham says supply agreements for U.K. access to COVID-19 vaccines from Valneva and partners BioNTech and Pfizer and are the first of up to eight vaccine deals expected in the near term.

The U.K. government announced on Monday supply deals for up to 130 million doses of two COVID-19 vaccines, as well as a deal with AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN) for 1 million doses of the pharma’s anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing mAb cocktail.

The first deal, with BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), gives the U.K. access to 30 million doses of mRNA-based vaccine BNT162. The partners separately announced initial data from a German Phase I/II trial of BNT162b1, one of four formulations the partners are developing in parallel.

This month, BioNTech and Pfizer expect to start a Phase IIb/III of BNT162, which the companies believe could lead to an Emergency Use Authorization as early as October. The partners have guided to manufacturing up to 100 million doses by year-end, and up to 1.3 billion additional doses by the end of 2021.

The deal with Valneva SE (Euronext:VLA) covers an initial 60 million doses of VLA2001, an inactivated whole virus vaccine for COVID-19, with an option to expand the deal to include 100 million doses in total. The U.K. government will provide financial support for clinical studies of VLA2001 as well as funding to expand the biotech’s manufacturing facilities in Scotland.

Valneva said VLA2001 is expected to enter the clinic by year-end and could be approved by 2H21.

Further financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Prior to Monday’s deals, the U.K. had supply agreements in place for 100 million doses of AZD1222, an adenovirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and University of Oxford, as well as an mRNA-based vaccine from Imperial College London, which is expected to start a Phase III trial this year (see “U.K. Expects First Access on Oxford Vaccine”).

Buckets of vaccines

Bingham told BioCentury that a protein-based vaccine is likely to be among the six to eight vaccines acquired by the U.K. in the first wave.

“We’re looking at four buckets. You’ve got adenovirus and mRNA and those are the more clinically advanced, so those could generate data and be ready by the end of the year,” she said. “The ones that are more established as vaccine formats but running further behind clinically would be the adjuvanted protein and whole inactivated virus.”

Bingham, who is also managing partner of SV Health Investors, added, “We will make more than one bet in each bucket. Where we think the potential vaccines are differentiated or suitable for different cohorts, we’ll have contracts with more than one.”

One candidate the task force will almost certainly consider for its recombinant protein vaccine bucket is a preclinical program from Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (LSE:GSK; NYSE:GSK). Earlier this month, rumors began to circulate that the U.K. was close to an agreement covering up to 60 million doses of the vaccine. It is slated to start Phase I/II testing in September (see “U.K. May Be Near 60M Dose Deal”).

Bingham added that different vaccines may be better suited to different patient populations, noting that “adjuvanted vaccines have been shown to produce an immune response in the elderly” whereas mRNA-based vaccines might be better suited for a younger demographic “where you don’t need as large of a punch on the immune system because they’ve already got pretty good immune responses.”

The first deals from the U.K. Vaccine Taskforce come just over a week after the U.K. opted not to participate in the EU COVID-19 vaccine procurement scheme, citing concerns the U.K. government would not be allowed to participate in the scheme’s steering committee.

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