By Ludwig Burger
Jan 29 (Reuters) – Novavax Inc expects to produce up to 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses monthly by May or June, its chief executive told Reuters on Friday, a day after reporting interim data that showed its shot to be 89% effective in a UK trial.
Novavax expects to complete the clinical trial for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in the next few weeks, but is already working on manufacturing to be able to reach full production capacity quickly, Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck said.
“We should be at full capacity starting in May or June, maybe as much as one hundred and fifty million doses per month globally,” he said.
Novavax shares jumped 65% on Friday to $221.27
Erck said he expects it will be several weeks before Novavax files the trial data with regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere, meaning that full review for authorization of its vaccine could take “a couple months.”
Novavax on Thursday released initial results from a UK trial showing its vaccine to be 89.3% effective in preventing COVID-19, and was nearly as effective in protecting against the more highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK. It also protected against the potent South Africa variant, though at a lower rate.
Erck said 16,000 volunteers have already taken part in its U.S. trial and that it will likely hit its target of 30,000 participants by early-to-mid February. The company would then observe them for about six weeks before reviewing the results, he added.
Novavax will initially focus its data review from the U.S. trial on the primary goal of preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and subsequently analyze the shot’s effectiveness against various concerning virus variants that have emerged.
The United States found its first cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa in South Carolina this week.
Novavax has supply contracts with the United States, Canada and Australia and is in talks with the European Union on a supply deal as well, the CEO said.
He added that his Maryland-based company has an agreement with the GAVI vaccine alliance to supply poorer countries with its shot to be produced by the Serum Institute in India – the world’s largest vaccine maker. It aims to produce 2 billion doses per year.
Novavax will begin scaling vaccine production in February or March, and expects to have its own production ramped up by the second quarter, along with production from the Serum Institute and partners in South Korea and Japan, Erck said.
Vaccine rollouts in the EU and other areas have been held back by supply issues as makers including AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc have said they would cut their shipments, at least temporarily. (Additional reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York; Editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)
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