German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac has teamed up with the UK Government to develop and manufacture potential vaccine candidates against new variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The multiple variant vaccine candidates to be developed under the collaboration will be manufactured and distributed in the UK and its territories, subject to regulatory approval.

Under the terms of the agreement, CureVac will initially supply 50 million doses of multi-variant Covid-19 vaccines to the UK with limited production planned in the UK.

The agreement envisages the manufacturing capabilities for rapid production multi-vaccines in large volumes for the UK, whenever required in the coming three years.

CureVac intends to leverage its extensive manufacturing network to produce multi-variant vaccine candidates for global supply.

UK Vaccines Task Force interim chair Dr Clive Dix said: “Today’s agreement will help ensure the UK is best prepared against the emergence of any significant new virus variant as mRNA vaccines can be rapidly adapted to be effective against new virus variants more easily than traditional vaccine technologies.

“We are constantly tracking the virus so we can identify any significant new variant as quickly as possible; therefore, as part of this agreement, CureVac and the UK Government will assess multiple virus variants and are expected to generate multiple vaccine candidates against those selected.”

CureVac is focused on developing a new class of transformative medicines based on messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).

The collaboration combines CureVac’s resources and technological expertise in mRNA vaccine development with the UK’s network of experts and capabilities in SARS-CoV-2 vaccine research and development.

Under the collaboration, UK’s Vaccines Taskforce (VTF) and CureVac, with support from the newly-formed Variant Vaccine Expert Advisory Group, are expected to evaluate multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants, and develop vaccine candidates against those selected variants.

The parties will conduct clinical studies in the UK to secure emergency or conditional marketing authorisations for the selected vaccine candidates against new variant viruses.

CureVac is expected to transfer its technology to facilitate the manufacturing of potential multi-variant vaccines from the collaboration, in clinical and commercial quantities.

Also, the company will manufacture its existing Covid-19 vaccine CVnCoV, which is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.

CVnCoV is an optimised, non-chemically modified mRNA, encoding the prefusion stabilised full-length spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and formulated within Lipid Nanoparticles (LNPs).

CureVac has entered into a collaboration with German pharmaceutical firm Bayer for the development of CVnCoV, and with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for co-developing multi-variant Covid-19 vaccine candidates.

CureVac chief business officer and chief commercial officer Antony Blanc said: “One of the biggest challenges we continue to face in combating Covid-19 is the emergence of multiple variants, each of which poses a potentially significant threat to public health.

“The UK Government and its Vaccines Taskforce (VTF) has been at the forefront of surveillance, vaccine development and delivery of vaccines for deployment during this pandemic. At CureVac, we believe we have the ability to quickly adapt our mRNA technology to address current variants and prepare for the emergence of new strains.

“This collaboration is expected to bring to bear our significant combined forces to ensure vaccines keep winning against Covid-19.”