The development of a covid-19 vaccine to be made on Teesside has taken a huge step forward after tests showed it is largely effective in protecting against the virus.
US pharmaceutical firm Novavax said results from UK trials showed its vaccine is 89.3% effective in preventing coronavirus in participants, including efficacy against new UK variant.
UK vaccine chiefs have described the result as “spectacular” and the UK has secured 60 million doses, with manufacturing set to take place at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’s facilities in Billingham.
The results mean the vaccine has passed its third and final stage of clinical trials and could soon begin production if it receives official regulatory approval.
The study was conducted while the new covid-19 variant was first observed in Kent and began to circulate widely. It enrolled more than 15,000 participants between 18 and 84 including 27% over the age of 65.
The Novavax vaccine will be delivered in the second half of this year, if approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), who will assess whether it meets safety, effectiveness and quality standards.
Clive Dix, chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce said:
“These are spectacular results, and we are very pleased to have helped Novavax with the development of this vaccine.
“The efficacy shown against the emerging variants is also extremely encouraging.
“This is an incredible achievement that will ensure we can protect individuals in the UK and the rest of the world from this virus.”
Last August Novavax announced plans to manufacture the bulk of the vaccine in Billingham.
Fujifilm is building a new BioCampus at its Billingham site, which will include 42,000 sq ft of office accommodation and a visitor centre.
It is expected to include additional research and development laboratories and new manufacturing facilities, which will be used to manufacture the vaccine.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“The results from the UK trial of Novavax’s vaccine look extremely promising, and I welcome the news that the company is planning to submit its data to the regulators.
“The UK moved quickly to procure 60 million doses from Novavax and I’m pleased to confirm the bulk of the vaccine will be manufactured on Teesside and delivered during this year, if approved for use.
“From the scientists and researchers to the thousands of UK trial volunteers, I am enormously grateful to everyone who is playing their part in this truly national effort to defeat this virus once and for all.”
Novavax’s candidate differs from those currently being used in the UK, combining an engineered protein from the virus that causes covid-19 with a plant-based ingredient to help generate a stronger immune response.
Having a diverse portfolio of vaccines increases the chances of ensuring there is a vaccine available for everyone across the UK.
The data published today come from more than 15,000 people who were recruited through the National Institute of Health Research vaccine registry, which was launched in July 2020 to support the UK’s efforts to deliver vaccines for Covid-19. Nearly 4,000 people in the study were over the age of 65.
The UK has secured early access to 367 million doses of seven of the most promising vaccines so far. To date, the UK Government has invested over £230m into manufacturing a successful vaccine.
It was the first country in the world to procure, authorise and then deploy both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
In total, more than 7.4 million people across the UK have now had a least one dose of the vaccine.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said:
““The news that the Novavax coronavirus vaccine has passed its third and final stage of clinical trials is more good news in the fight against the virus.
“This means very soon, once the medicines regulator the MHRA give it the green light, we will have a fourth vaccine in our armoury to use against the virus.
“All 60 million doses of the lifesaving vaccine will be manufactured right here in Teesside by Fujifilm Diosynth at their BioCampus in Billingham.
“Since the start of the pandemic I’ve worked closely with government ministers and officials to make sure our hugely talented and world leading bioscience sector played a full role in vaccine production, this culminated in the deal being struck in August last year for Fujifilm Diosynth being the sole UK manufacturer of the Novavax job.
“Once again Teesside is leading the way and putting itself on the world stage for the fantastic work we do in our region.
“This is a significant announcement that everyone in Teesside should be proud of as we are at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to get life back to normal and protect us all.”
By Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies