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Valneva to start final tests on alternative Covid vaccine

A step forward for a French drugmaker’s low-tech shot.
Image: Bing Guan/Bloomberg

Valneva SE plans to start final-phase clinical trials on its Covid-19 vaccine candidate this month, a step forward for a French drugmaker’s low-tech shot that’s being backed by the UK government.

The Lyon-based company said Tuesday a phase 1/2 test gave positive results for a high dose. Valneva shares rose as much as 8.4% in early Paris trading.

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The vaccine uses a sample of the virus that has been killed to stimulate an immune response without causing the disease. The approach has been used for decades with inoculations for polio and hepatitis A. Valneva has said the well-established safety profile of inactivated jabs may allow a successful shot to be used in a broader group of people than newer technologies from other drugmakers.

The results “provide renewed hope that a vaccine using a whole inactivated virus might provide strong protection against variants,” UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zawahi said in the statement. If the final phase data are positive and the vaccine gets UK regulatory approval, “this will be another powerful weapon in our arsenal to beat this pandemic.”

The UK has signed a deal worth as much as 1.4 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to receive as many as 190 million doses of the shot between 2021 and 2025. The British government is also investing in the biotech’s Scottish manufacturing plant, where the vaccine will be created.

The company is studying how to adapt its vaccine to variants, and because of that, now Valneva expects the delivery of the first 60 million doses to extend into the first quarter of 2022.

The vaccine contains an adjuvant supplied by Dynavax Technologies Corp. Adjuvants are substances used to generate a more robust immune response to a vaccine.

© 2021 Bloomberg

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