Europe may have found a new supplier of the Covid-19 vaccine. The American biotech Novavax announced to the European Union that it planned to begin deliveries of its product towards the end of the year, the Reuters news agency understands, citing a “European official familiar with the discussions”.
According to this source, Novavax would provide up to 200 million doses of the vaccine. However, this remains conditional on the approval of the product by the European health authorities… and on the signing of a contract between Europe and the American biotech. What could intervene “from this week”, according to the same source.
Novavax reached a preliminary agreement with the EU in December but the signing of a final agreement has been postponed. The American biotech would have, it seems, had difficulty in obtaining certain raw materials in the context of the health crisis, according to Reuters. The laboratory is still experiencing production problems, but is now able to provide a delivery schedule, explains the official. The majority of the doses, however, should not be delivered until 2022.
For its part, Novavax is content to say that negotiations with the EU are continuing. The laboratory also refuses to comment on this information on the schedule, production problems or the prospect of an official agreement.
An effective vaccine
EU purchases remain conditional on regulatory approval of the vaccine. That of Novavax has been under review by the European Medicines Agency since February. The latter has not set a date for its decision on the vaccine candidate, which has not yet been validated by any country in the world.
Maryland’s biotech has, however, already made agreements with the United States and several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and South Korea. According to the first data from its phase III clinical trial, the Novavax vaccine is 89.3% effective against the original strain of the coronavirus, 86% against the so-called British variant and only 49% against the South African. The laboratory is already working on a version adapted to the latter.
Novavax’s vaccine uses the Spike protein present on the surface of the coronavirus, like other major vaccines already approved. But in his case, it is obtained by recombination. It is thus produced in cells of insects and not of mammals. Above all, it then takes the form of proteins that viruses emit to infect new cells – viral-like proteins – which makes it very visible to the immune system.
In order to trigger a sufficient immune response, the vaccine also incorporates an adjuvant developed by Novavax. Called “Matrix-M”, it is extracted from Panama wood. A resource whose stocks are limited, which has slowed down the ramp-up of production. Part of the phase III study conducted in the United States with 30,000 participants had to be suspended at the end of December 2020, for lack of sufficient doses.
It remains to be seen whether Novavax has found the solution in order to be able to maintain high levels of delivery in the event that its vaccine is approved by the European Union. Like those of J & J or AstraZeneca, it does not require special storage conditions.