GSK bets on plant-based efficacy boosters for new COVID-19 vaccine

In a significant development, GSK, the world’s largest vaccine-maker said, it has put its vaccine booster technology to work in a potential new COVID-19 shot which will be developed with a Canadian biopharmaceutical company that has the backing of Philip Morris.

Rather than join the race and invest millions in developing a COVID-19 vaccine on its own, GSK has focused on contributing its adjuvant technology to at least seven other global companies, including Sanofi and Chinese pharmaceutical Clover.

This deal uses plant-based technology that differs from GSK’s other coronavirus-partnerships and boosts its chances of finding a successful candidate while maintaining the ability to scale production relatively quickly.

Currently, COVID-19, the coronavirus disease which emerged from Wuhan, China, has no approved treatments or vaccine; 19 vaccines and some treatments are being developed globally to cure this disease.

Medicago’s approach, already used in a flu vaccine awaiting Canadian approval, takes the leaves of a plant as bioreactors to produce one of the three spike proteins of the novel coronavirus, the S-spike, which can be then used in the vaccine with GSK’s adjuvant.

On Tuesday, GSK had said the companies aimed to make their vaccine available in the first half of next year and produce about 100 million doses by the end of 2021.

An early-stage human trial of three different dosage levels is expected to begin in mid-July.

Adjuvants, also known as efficacy boosters, are added to some vaccines to increase the immune response with the aim of achieving more lasting immunity against an infection.

Quebec-headquartered Medicago is privately owned; PMI holds a 33% stake in the company with the remainder held by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma.

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