London, February 5
The UK government says it will support a German biopharmaceutical company’s effort to develop vaccines to combat new variants of COVID-19, once again backing early-stage research into products meant to control the pandemic.
As part of the deal, Tuebingen, Germany-based CureVac will produce the vaccines in the UK and supply the government with 50 million doses of shots that gain regulatory approval. The government did not say how much it was investing in the project.
The announcement on Friday comes as public health officials around the world raise concerns about new virus variants that are more contagious or resistant to existing vaccines.
While viruses mutate constantly, most of the changes cause little concern. But scientists are closely tracking these mutations to make sure they quickly identify variants of concern.
Earlier this week, drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline said it would invest in CureVac for the development of new vaccines targeting emerging variants, using its messenger RNA technology to attack the disease. GSK said it plans to invest 150 million euros (USD 181 million) in the project.
CureVac said its collaboration with the UK will support both the vaccines it is developing with GSK as well as another vaccine candidate it is developing with Bayer that is already in human trials.
Authorities in England this week launched house-to-house coronavirus testing in targeted communities in a bid to snuff out a variant first discovered in South Africa before it spreads widely and undermines a nationwide vaccination program.
Public health officials are concerned about the variant because it contains a mutation of the virus’ characteristic spike protein targeted by existing vaccines. The mutation may mean the vaccines offer less protection against the variant. — AP