Valneva sees full UK investment in possible COVID vaccine sealed within weeks

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) - French vaccine maker Valneva said on Wednesday that Britain was committing an initial investment of more than 10 million pounds ($13 million) to increase production capacity for a possible COVID-19 vaccine, and it expected to finalise a full package within weeks.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Chief Finance Officer David Lawrence said the overall investment would extend into clinical development and manufacturing, as governments race to secure a vaccine to help their citizens, and economies, recover from the pandemic.

Valneva was committing to supplying 60 million doses of an eventual vaccine to Britain in the second half of 2021, he said.

“The more production points we can put in place, the quicker we build up capacity. That’s where this investment is extremely helpful,” Lawrence told Reuters.

Shares in Valneva traded 5% up at 1105 GMT.

The investment will target the company’s plant in Livingston, Scotland, where it already manufactures a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis. The initial tranche would come this year, Lawrence said.

Britain said in July it had agreed in principle to buy 60 million doses of a Valneva experimental vaccine, with an option to purchase 40 million more if it proved safe, effective and suitable.

Valneva says it is aiming for clinical trials of its vaccine by the end of the year.

The timetable is slower than some others, but Valneva says the company’s traditional, inactivated whole virus technique could prove more effective than newer messenger RNA (mRNA) approaches used by BioNTech and Pfizer on some groups.

“It’s very good for at-risk groups, the immuno-compromised, the elderly etc,” Lawrence said.

Reporting by William James and Richard Lough; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise