Coronavirus vaccine unlikely to be widely available before mid-2021

Germany awarded three biotech companies grants to help them speed up the development of coronavirus vaccine candidates, but Research Minister Anja Karliczek said any vaccine was unlikely to be widely available before the middle of next year.

Europe’s largest economy has reported a rise in infections in recent days, with the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases blaming negligence and saying it was unclear if a second wave was underway.

We should not expect a miracle, Karliczek told a news conference, calling for people to maintain social distancing and mask-wearing to avoid jeopardising what Germany had achieved in recent weeks in terms of bringing the pandemic under control.
We must continue to assume that vaccines for the broader population will only be available from the middle of next year at the earliest.

Government advisers had recommended making awards from a 750 million euro ($882.23 million) pot for vaccine development the government announced last month to German biotech firms BioNtech , CureVac and IDT Biologika, which are working on coronavirus vaccines, she said.

All three of them are promising candidates but we must of course always expect setbacks during the testing phase because it’s one thing to have an effective vaccine but it’s another to have a safe vaccine that people want, Karliczek said.

The money is designed to help the companies scale up production and clinical testing of their offerings.

More than 150 vaccine candidates are in various stages of development, with 23 prospects in human trials across the globe.

With 206,000 confirmed cases and just over 9,000 deaths, Germany wants to avoid a second wave, which would bring back lockdowns after economically crippling restrictions that closed many businesses for six weeks in March and April.

Another group, led by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co have completed test supplies of a blood plasma treatment for COVID-19, but pending regulator approval will likely prevent clinical trials from meeting a July start date.

The CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance is ready to start shipping vials to study sites once the trial is approved by regulators in the United States, said Julie Kim, president of the plasma-derived therapies unit of Takeda.

The group had originally aimed to begin clinical trials in July. The National Institutes of Health in the U.S. is the trial sponsor, and is looking at study sites around the world, according to Kim, who also serves as co-leader of the alliance.

The alliance, which also includes Biotest AG, CSL Behring, and Octapharma Plasma, is working on a hyperimmune globulin therapy derived from convalescent plasma. It offers a standardized dose of antibodies and doesn’t need to be limited to patients with matching blood types.

Clinical supplies of the treatment were produced at Takeda’s facility in the U.S. state of Georgia and at CSL Behring’s facility in Bern, Switzerland.

If the trials prove successful, the alliance expects to start submissions for regulatory authorization before the end of the year, Kim said.


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