A deal to secure early access to a new coronavirus vaccine has been announced by the UK Government.
The agreement with GSK and Sanofi Pasteur, which combined have the largest vaccine manufacturing capability in the world, will supply the country with 60 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine – which is based on existing DNA-based technology used to produce Sanofi’s flu vaccine.
If the GSK and Sanofi vaccine candidate is proven effective in human studies, the UK could be able to vaccinate priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk, as soon as summer 2021.
Human clinical studies of the vaccine will begin in September followed by a study in December 2020.
With today’s announcement, the government has now secured access to four different types of immunisation and a total of 250 million doses.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Our scientists and researchers are racing to find a safe and effective vaccine at a speed and scale never seen before. While this progress is truly remarkable, the fact remains that there are no guarantees.
“In the meantime, it is important that we secure early access to a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives.”
This latest agreement comes as the government confirmed that almost 72,000 people have volunteered to receive information about participating in future vaccine studies following the launch of the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry last week.
The government is urging the British public to back the effort to speed up vaccine research by signing up to www.nhs.uk/coronavirus to receive information about becoming a volunteer for clinical studies. The aim is to get 500,000 people signed up by October.
Kate Bingham, Chair of the Government’s Vaccines Taskforce, said: “Through this agreement with GSK and Sanofi, the Vaccine Taskforce can add another type of vaccine to the three different types of vaccine we have already secured.
“This diversity of vaccine types is important because we do not yet know which, if any, of the different types of vaccine will prove to generate a safe and protective response to COVID-19. Whilst this agreement is very good news, we mustn’t be complacent or over optimistic.
“The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”
Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sanofi Pasteur commented: “With our partner GSK, we are pleased to cooperate with the UK government as well as several other countries and global organizations as part of our ongoing efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine and make it available as quickly as possible. We greatly appreciate the UK government’s support of this shared vision.”
Roger Connor, President of GSK Vaccines added: "We believe that this adjuvanted vaccine candidate has the potential to play a significant role in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the UK and around the world. We thank the UK Government for confirmation of purchasing intent, which supports the significant investment we are already making as a company to scale up development and production of this vaccine.”
Earlier this month, the government announced it had secured 90 million Covid-19 vaccine doses thanks to partnerships with the BioNTech / Pfizer alliance and Valneva. A deal has also been agreed to secure access to treatments containing Covid-19 neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca, to protect those who cannot receive vaccines such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.
This is in addition to an existing global licensing agreement signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine for the UK public. AstraZeneca will work to produce 100 million doses for the UK in total.