LONDON (Reuters) – French pharmaceutical firm Valneva will start the first clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate at four sites in England, saying it would have an important role to play in complementing the frontrunning shots.
The Phase I and Phase II trials involve 150 volunteers in Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle, and will be designed to show whether the vaccine is safe and produces an immune response.
If these are successful, larger trials are planned for April 2021 to determine efficacy. There are four other vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials in the United Kingdom.
Britain has ordered 60 million doses of Valneva’s vaccine candidate, to be delivered in 2021, with an option to acquire 130 million more in subsequent years. It is being made at a manufacturing plant in Livingston, Scotland and, like other leading candidates, it is expected to need a two dose regimen.
Shares in the firm were up more than 10% on Wednesday. Valneva is developing an inactivated, whole virus vaccine, a more traditional approach to making shots than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which has already been approved in Britain.
However, Valneva Chief Executive Thomas Lingelbach emphasised the unprecedented demand for vaccines and the need for shots that offered a good chance of giving longer term immunity.
“We never have positioned our vaccine as competing against the front-running vaccines right now, but as complementing those in order to achieve the best global vaccination policies,” he told Reuters.
“Inactivated vaccines can be supplied easily, can be distributed easily, (and) can be manufactured rather easily.”
In all, the British government has supply deals for seven different types of vaccine, securing access to 357 million doses.
“We must remember that we need to have a range of vaccines available to protect the British public now and long into the future,” business minister Alok Sharma said.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)