Israel partners with NRx Pharmaceuticals to commercialize COVID vaccine

The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration
The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration taken November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

JERUSALEM, July 12 (Reuters) - Israel is partnering withU.S.-based NRx Pharmaceuticals(NRXP.O) to complete trials and commercialize the Israeli-developed COVID-19 vaccine BriLife.

NRx and the Israel Institute for Biological Research on Monday announced a memorandum of understanding that includes the worldwide development, manufacturing and marketing rights of the vaccine, which in recent months has been undergoing early clinical trials in Israel.

NRx said it has arranged for rapid Phase 2b/3 testing in Israel, Georgia and Ukraine. Israel's Defense Ministry, which oversees the biological research institute, said the trials will include tens of thousands of volunteers.

Shares in NRx were up about 3.4% to $11.90 on Nasdaq on the news.

BriLife is a self-propagating, live-virus vaccine, which sets it apart from mRNA vaccines produced by companies like Pfizer, which are currently being used in Israel's successful vaccination campaign. It will initially be delivered via injection, NRx said.

None of the vaccines authorized for use in the United States contain a live virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

There had been some discussion in Israel about whether the locally developed vaccine was necessary after the country opted to import Pfizer’s en masse. Officials said it was worth keeping the project going in order to ensure a locally made alternative was eventually available.

"I anticipate that with this agreement, we will be able to complete the development of the vaccine and enable Israel to produce vaccines independently, because as we have seen recently – the coronavirus is not going anywhere," said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

NRx said the Israeli research institute will provide technical assistance while receiving royalty and milestone payments for its intellectual property. It also said it has committed to supplying all required doses of the vaccine for the population of Israel.

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Dan Williams; Editing by Dan Grebler

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