Novartis has entered the race to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus by signing a strategic partnership with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital to produce a vaccine candidate.
In fact, it will be Novartis’ gene therapy-focused subsidiary, AveXis, that will lead the manufacturing process, with the potential vaccine being based on adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector technology.
The subsidiary’s lead gene therapy product is based on such technology and AveXis will therefore free up some space at its own manufacturing facility, which covers one million-square-feet, to manufacture the vaccine candidate.
AveXis will begin manufacture of the vaccine immediately while preclinical testing continues, with clinical trials expected to begin during the second half of 2020.
According to the agreed deal, AveXis will provide its technology, expertise and supply chain ‘at no cost’ for these trials.
In return, Novartis will hold the option to manufacture the vaccine through clinical and commercial development, should it progress this far.
Luk Vandenberghe, director of the Grousbeck Gene Therapy Center at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, in whose laboratory the vaccine was developed, said, “By partnering with an industry leader in AveXis that already produces AAV gene therapy products at large scales, we are more on track than ever to reaching our goal of developing a vaccine capable for wide distribution to prevent infection at population levels.”
By agreeing this deal, Novartis has joined a raft of major pharmaceutical companies that have partnered or developed their own vaccines or treatments against COVID-19 that are speeding through clinical trials.
The current focus across the industry is to ensure that production of the various candidates can reach a scale to combat what is a global pandemic. This has seen various companies strive towards being able to produce one billion doses, including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and GSK.