Valneva eyes EU COVID-19 vaccine deal after agreeing to supply UK

LONDON (Reuters) - France’s Valneva is in talks with the European Union about supplying the bloc with its possible COVID-19 vaccine, Chief Executive Thomas Lingelbach said on Monday after striking a deal with Britain.

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

“We are talking to the EU,” Lingelbach told Reuters after the British agreement was announced. He gave no further details.

Two sources told Reuters on Friday the EU was negotiating advance purchase deals of potential COVID-19 vaccines with drugmakers Moderna, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, as well as biotech firms BioNTech and CureVac.

On Monday, Britain, which left the EU this year and which has not joined the bloc’s vaccine scheme, also secured early access to BioNTech’s vaccine it is developing with Pfizer.

Valneva’s Lingelbach said Britain was at the head of the queue for doses of its vaccine if it worked. “My personal working hypothesis is that the first 60 million go into the UK,” he said, although he said details were still being negotiated.

Valneva is aiming for clinical trials of the vaccine to start in November or December this year, Lingelbach said. The vaccine uses an adjuvant, or booster, by Dynavax.

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

“No one can predict how the mRNA approaches are going to deliver going forward,” he said. “It takes a bit longer to develop those vaccines on the more conventional side. But we believe that those vaccines have a nice prospect.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Edmund Blair