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Funding and deals fly for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing

Emergent lands $628 million government contract as Novavax acquires a European firm

by Rick Mullin
June 3, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 22


A photo of vaccine manufacturing at Emergent BioSolutions
Credit: Emergent BioSolutions
Emergent specialists use column chromatography to isolate a vaccine candidate and remove contaminants.

As potential vaccines for COVID-19 advance in clinical trials, initiatives and funding to produce them at large scale are also advancing.

The contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions has received $628 million from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support vaccine production under the US government’s Operation Warp Speed program. Emergent is working with several vaccine developers, including Johnson & Johnson, with which it signed a production deal in April.

Another Emergent partner is Novavax, for which Emergent will manufacture a nanoparticle-based vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373. Novavax is building up its own capabilities as well. It just announced the $167 million acquisition of Praha Vaccines, a Czech firm that will produce antigens for Novavax’s vaccine candidate.

And Novavax says it has hired PolyPeptide Laboratories for large-scale production of two saponin-based intermediates used in the production of Matrix-M, the adjuvant component of NVX-CoV2373. In a second deal with Novavax, AGC Biologics will make the adjuvant itself. Adjuvants are used to boost a vaccine’s immune response.

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Meanwhile GlaxoSmithKline announced plans to manufacture 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine adjuvant system next year in support of multiple adjuvanted vaccine candidates, including one from Sanofi.

These developments follow a stream of earlier deals and funding contracts. For example, Moderna recently chose the Swiss contractor Lonza to produce its lead vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273. The work is funded in part by a BARDA commitment of $483 million. Moderna also extended a contract with the German services firm CordenPharma, which manufactures lipids necessary for delivering mRNA-1273.

And BARDA recently said it will provide $700,000 to Snapdragon Chemistry, a continuous manufacturing specialist, to develop a continuous process for nucleotide triphosphates used to produce mRNA vaccines. Snapdragon CEO Matthew Bio says he expects the nucleotides to be in short supply as mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are commercialized.


This story was updated on June 4, 2020, with the news of Novavax's contracts with PolyPeptide Laboratories and AGC Biologics.



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