MILAN (Reuters) -Italy’s government revived hopes of producing the country’s own COVID-19 vaccine on Friday when it said it was ready to finance the ReiThera project despite a court ruling rejecting a plan to pump public funds into the local biotech company.
Italy’s state audit court on Friday raised objections to the public financing for the project, throwing its future into doubt.
The court said of the 50 million euros ($60.96 million) of public money directly pledged for ReiThera, too little was dedicated to the research and production of the vaccine and too much to a general strengthening of the company, including the purchase of its headquarters.
“The industry ministry is ready to contribute to the ReiThera vaccine project in the forms and ways allowed, using different and innovative tools … provided by the new rules,” Industry Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said in a statement on Friday.
ReiThera’s vaccine, developed with Germany’s Leukocare and Belgium’s Univercells, has concluded Phase II trials and the firm is in early talks with Brussels to supply the European Union. However, the project needs public funding to start Phase III trials.
Italy said on Thursday it will introduce tax breaks of 20% for companies conducting research and development for innovative drugs, including COVID-19 vaccines, provided they grant non-exclusive licences, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters.
($1 = 0.8202 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia, editing by Gavin Jones and Louise Heavens)