LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom said on Friday it had reached an agreement with German biotechnology company CureVac to work on developing vaccines against various types of the emerging coronavirus, and had requested an initial request for 50 million doses if needed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson cited the possibility of new variants of the Coronavirus emerging as one of the biggest risks facing the deployment of the vaccine and hopes that the economy will begin to open up in the spring after the country’s current lockdown.
The government said the Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines currently being published appear to work well against the variants currently prevalent in the UK.
“But we must be prepared for any eventuality and strengthen the UK’s manufacturing capacity to develop vaccines to combat new variants of the disease, drawing on our world-leading genomic experience,” Health Minister Matt Hancock said in a statement.
The government has said nearly all vaccines developed through the partnership will be from the current CureVac vaccine, which is currently in the final stages of clinical trials.
For CureVac, the alliance is another step up to catch up with the leading developers of mRNA vaccines, BioNTech and Moderna, and reclaim the first place for a new generation of vaccines that inhibit more than one variant in a single treatment cycle.
On Wednesday, it announced a partnership with the British company GlaxoSmithKline on vaccines against variants.
(Information from Alistair Smoot in London and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; edited by Sarah Young and Nick McVeigh; edited by Thomas Cobos)