GlaxoSmithKline Plc and CureVac N.V. yesterday disclosed that they sealed a new €150 million collaboration, to jointly develop next generation mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 with the potential for a multi-valent approach to address multiple emerging variants in one vaccine.

The companies added that GSK would also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of CureVac’s first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV in 2021.

They revealed the plan in a statement yesterday, noting that the development programme would begin immediately, with the target of introducing the vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval.

While GSK is a British multinational pharmaceutical company, CureVac is a German biopharmaceutical company legally domiciled in the Netherlands and headquartered in Tübingen, Germany.

But in their statement, GSK and CureVac said they would contribute resources and expertise to research, develop, and manufacture a number of novel mRNA vaccine candidates, including multi-valent and monovalent approaches.

The statement said the aim of the work “is to offer broader protection against a variety of different SARS-CoV2 variants, and to enable a quick response to new variants potentially emerging in the future.

“The increase in emerging variants with the potential to reduce the efficacy of first generation COVID-19 vaccines requires acceleration of efforts to develop vaccines against new variants to keep one step ahead of the pandemic.

“These next generation COVID-19 vaccines may either be used to protect people who have not been vaccinated before, or to serve as boosters in the event that COVID-19 immunity gained from an initial vaccination reduces over time,” the statement said.

The statement explained that the collaboration would assess the development of novel mRNA vaccines to protect against multiple respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

It said the collaboration would build on CureVac’s first generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV, which it claimed, was currently in Phase 2b/3 clinical trial and on CureVac’s ability to optimise mRNA for a strong immune response, manufacturability, and stability at standard 2-8°C cold chain conditions for vaccines.

According to the statement, CureVac’s platform is uniquely adapted to designing multi-valent vaccines with a balanced immune response and a low dose of mRNA.

Quoted in the statement, GSK’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Emma Walmsley, said: “We believe that next generation vaccines will be crucial in the continued fight against COVID-19.

“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.

“At the same time, we will also support the production of CureVac’s first generation vaccines with the manufacture of 100 million doses in 2021.”

Also in the statement, Chief Executive Officer of CureVac, Franz-Werner Haas, said: “We are very pleased to build on our existing relationship with GSK with a new agreement to jointly develop next generation mRNA-based vaccines, in addition to our current candidate CVnCoV.

“With the help of GSK’s proven vaccine expertise, we are equipping ourselves to tackle future health challenges with novel vaccines.

“As part of the new collaboration, GSK will also support manufacture of CureVac’s first-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV that is currently in Phase 2b/3 trials.

“Using its established manufacturing network in Belgium, GSK aims to support manufacturing of up to 100 million doses of the vaccine in 2021,” he explained.

Under the terms of the new collaboration agreement, Haas noted that GSK would be the marketing authorisation holder for the next generation vaccine, except in Switzerland.

He also said GSK would have exclusive rights to develop, manufacture, and commercialise the next generation COVID-19 vaccine in all countries with the exception of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

He added that GSK would make an upfront payment of €75m and a further milestone payment of €75m, conditional on the achievement of specific milestones.