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Novavax snares $167M buyout to rapidly scale up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing

n its pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax bagged a major cash infusion earlier this month thanks to a nearly $400 million grant from a global epidemic response fund. Now, Novavax has put some of those funds to good use in an effort to supercharge its manufacturing capacity.  

Novavax will fork over $167 million for Czech manufacturer Praha Vaccines and team up with vaccine giant Serum Institute of India in moves that will add capacity for 1 billion-plus doses per year of a potential COVID-19 shot, the drugmaker said Wednesday.

As part of the acquisition, Maryland-based Novavax will pick up Praha’s 150,000-square-foot, 150-employee facility in Bohumil, Czech Republic. The “state-of-the-art ” plant is undergoing renovation and is outfitted for vaccine and biologics manufacturing.

A well-developed crystallization process can produce suitable particles that can facilitate consistent filtration, drying and formulation of the API and allow confident and reliable manufacturing of the final drug product, while avoiding unnecessary cost, risk and development delays.

The Praha buyout, funded with a $384 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), will bring Novavax’s vaccine manufacturing capacity above 1 billion doses by 2021.

The drugmaker will partner with the Serum Institute of India to scale production at the Praha site by the end of 2020 and will continue to build antigen production at multiple sites in the U.S. and Asia, Novavax said.

Novavax’s acquisition will help it keep pace with other drugmakers that have signed massive manufacturing deals to hit the magic 1-billion-dose-per-year goal for their own vaccine hopefuls.

Earlier this month, Novavax received the $384 million CEPI grant to help fund its COVID-19 vaccine testing through phase 2, plus early work to scale up manufacturing. The funding followed a $4 million award in March.

The Maryland biotech said it would use the funds to conduct a phase 1/2 trial on its candidate, NVX-COV2373, starting with a phase 1 portion in Australia that dosed its first patients earlier this month. After phase 1 results—expected in July—the phase 2 portion is slated for multiple countries, Novavax said.

Aside from Novavax, CEPI has awarded COVID-19 vaccine R&D funds to Moderna, Inovio and Curevac, plus the University of Hong Kong, the University of Oxford, the University of Queensland and a group led by Institut Pasteur.  

Drugmakers are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to manufacturing multiple COVID-19 vaccines as the global demand could put an immense strain on any one company’s capacity.

Earlier this month, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the pharmaceutical industry would likely need to produce “three, four, five vaccines” against COVID-19 to succeed “because no manufacturer can make enough doses for the planet.”

Moderna, which is developing an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19, previously inked a 10-year supply partnership with Lonza, and the partners aim to make up to 1 billion vaccine doses per year.

Other drugmakers, including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, have also joined the race, signing major manufacturing agreements to scale production rapidly.

On Tuesday, Merck & Co. announced it would make a late run at a possible vaccine, signing a trio of deals to pursue a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The drugmaker hasn’t yet announced any contract manufacturing agreements to help it scale up production.