Novavax director says his new COVID vaccine should work against rising variants

(Delete the foreign word in paragraph 9)

By Michael Erman

(Reuters) – Novavax Inc’s head of research and development said on Monday that an updated COVID-19 vaccine the company is already producing is likely to protect against other fast-growing coronavirus variants circulating in the states. -United

Protein-based vaccines like Novavax’s take longer to produce than messenger RNA (mRNA)-based versions made by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

For this reason, the company said earlier this year that it had started producing a version of the vaccine to target the currently dominant XBB.1.5 variant of the virus on a commercial scale.

A panel of external advisers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is due to meet on June 15 to discuss strain selection for this year’s COVID-19 booster shots, and regulators are expected to make their decision shortly. After.

In an interview, Novavax R&D chief Filip Dubovsky made the case for the vaccine targeting XBB.1.5, saying it was a good approach that should also provide protection against related variants on the rise. , such as XBB.2.3.

“You would more than likely want the 1.5” if your goal was to target newly released variants, he said. “XBB.2.3 is a bit closer to 1.5.”

The company is banking heavily on its updated COVID reminder.

With an underutilized COVID-19 vaccine as its only product, Novavax said earlier this year it may not be able to remain solvent and is relying on the successful launch of an updated vaccine in time. for a recall campaign this fall to improve its prospects.

Dubovsky said the company has also started working on vaccines that target the XBB.1.16 and XBB.2.3 variants, but those are at an earlier stage of development.

A meeting of international regulators last month chaired by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s top vaccine regulator, Peter Marks, concluded that an XBB strain of the virus was a “suitable candidate” for the update. vaccine.

Marks also presented data at this meeting suggesting that the spike proteins on the surface of the new variants were close enough to XBB.1.5 to likely make it an effective choice for next-generation boosters.

(This story has been reclassified to remove the foreign word in paragraph 9)

(Reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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