Novartis to Help Make CureVac Covid-19 Vaccine
By Jared S. Hopkins
Novartis AG will help manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine that
Germany's CureVac NV is developing, the latest drugmaker tie-up
aimed at accelerating production of shots.
The two-dose vaccine is in late-stage testing, and CureVac has
said results could come as soon as next month.
Novartis, one of the world's biggest drugmakers by sales, said
Thursday it would upgrade its plant in Kundl, Austria, so that it
can help make up to 50 million doses of CureVac's vaccine this year
and up to 200 million doses next year.
The Swiss drug giant said it is preparing to begin production on
the vaccine in the second quarter, and expects to begin delivering
key components of the shot to CureVac in the summer.
CureVac will finish manufacturing and prepare doses for
shipment, should regulators give the green light. The company has
assembled a manufacturing network that aims to produce up to 300
million doses this year.
The arrangement with Novartis is the latest instance of drug
companies joining to boost vaccine supply as the world looks to
increase immunization and end the pandemic.
This week, Merck & Co. said it would help to manufacture
Johnson & Johnson's vaccine, which was recently cleared by
health regulators for use in the U.S.
Novartis, which sold its vaccine business in 2014, also signed
up to perform fill-finish for Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, a last
step in which vials are filled, capped and readied for shipment.
Novartis's Swiss plant is scheduled to deliver doses as early as
The collaborations have brought together rivals. They promise to
substantially increase the output of Covid-19 shots amid heavy
demand, though the partners must first master complex production
CureVac's shot uses a new gene-based technology called messenger
RNA, after the molecules that carry genetic instructions to
Researchers designed mRNA vaccines to teach cells to make a
harmless version of the spike protein that juts from the new
coronavirus. Production of the protein trains the immune system to
recognize the real coronavirus and fight it.
Novartis said it would make the mRNA for the vaccine, and
encapsulate the molecules with tiny fat particles for protection as
they travel to a cell.
Novartis invested $10 million as part of adapting its facility
in Austria to produce CureVac's vaccine, said Steffen Lang, who
oversees the company's manufacturing and supply operations, in an
Mr. Lang said the deal grew out of Novartis's efforts last year
offering manufacturing help to companies developing Covid-19
vaccines and drugs. He said Novartis is in discussions with other
firms, but declined to name them.
The mRNA approach is also the basis for vaccines from Moderna
Inc. and Pfizer-BioNTech that have been cleared for use around the
CureVac, based in the southern German state of
Baden-Württemberg, in December began a late-stage clinical trial in
about 37,000 people of the vaccine, called CVnCoV. Last month, it
began a rolling submission with European regulators for the shot's
CureVac began assembling manufacturing partners last year. The
firm last month said GlaxoSmithKline PLC would manufacture up to
100 million doses of the vaccine this year.
Another big drugmaker, Bayer AG, has been assisting with
development of the vaccine.
Should regulators clear CureVac's vaccine, it would boost the
world's limited vaccine stock. The company struck a deal to provide
up to 405 million doses to European member states.
The new mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have
contributed to a global vaccine rollout, but health authorities
have confronted limited supplies as companies increase
The manufacturing partnerships promise higher output, but some
of the steps have been tough to scale up quickly, in part because
they haven't been performed before, according to manufacturing
Write to Jared S. Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
March 04, 2021 07:16 ET (12:16 GMT)
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