Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline said on Wednesday it would work with a German biopharmaceutical company to develop new vaccines targeting emerging variants of COVID-19, fearing that certain mutations could make the virus more difficult to fight.
GSK plans to invest 150 million euros ($ 181 million) to support the research of CureVac, based in Tubingen, Germany, which is developing vaccines that use messenger RNA to attack the disease. GSK also said it will help manufacture up to 100 million doses of the company’s existing COVID-19 vaccine candidate this year.
The increase in emerging variants with the potential to reduce the effectiveness of first-generation COVID-19 vaccines requires an acceleration of efforts to develop vaccines against new variants to stay ahead of the pandemic, ”the officials said. companies in a press release.
The announcement comes as public health officials around the world worry about new viral variants that are more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines.
While viruses are constantly mutating, most of the changes are of little concern. But scientists are monitoring these mutations closely to make sure they quickly identify the variants of concern.
English authorities are carrying out door-to-door coronavirus testing in targeted communities this week in a bid to quell a new variant before it spreads widely and jeopardizes a nation-wide vaccination program.
UK authorities want to test around 80,000 people in eight regions where the variant, first identified in South Africa, is believed to spread after a handful of cases were found in people who had no contact with the country or anyone who has traveled there.
Public health officials are concerned about the variant first identified in South Africa because it contains a spike protein mutation characteristic of the virus targeted by existing vaccines. The mutation may mean that the vaccines offer less protection against the variant.
We believe next-generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against COVID-19, “GSK Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley said in the statement.
This new collaboration builds on our existing relationship with CureVac and means that together we will combine our scientific expertise in mRNA and vaccine development to advance and accelerate the development of new COVID-19 vaccine candidates. ”
In its annual results released Wednesday, GSK said it expects further disruption to its vaccine business in the first half of the year given governments prioritizing COVID-19 vaccination programs and the resurgence end of 2020 of the pandemic.
He said this is expected to affect vaccinations for adults and adolescents, including Shingrix against shingles, especially in the United States. Despite this, he expects a rebound in the second half of the year and that vaccine revenue in 2021 will be stable or increase slightly.
Overall, GSK saw its sales in 2020 increase by 1% to 34.1 billion pounds ($ 46 billion) and net profit by 21% to 6.4 billion pounds ($ 9.6 billion). ).
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