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London terminates contract for vaccines from French start-up Valneva

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After having pre-ordered 100 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines from the Franco-Austrian biotech, London is backtracking. The UK terminated its contract, causing Valneva’s stock to fall on the stock market. For the start-up, the shortfall is big. The group relied heavily on this order, its one and only to date.

Huge blow for the Franco-Austrian start-up based in Nantes. The Valneva laboratory, which is developing a vaccine against Covid-19, has just learned that the British government has “terminated” its contract for 100 million pre-ordered doses.

Against Covid-19, Valneva is working on the development of a deactivated virus vaccine, a more traditional technology than messenger RNA and which is used in particular each year for vaccines against the flu.

“The contract includes a clause allowing the British government to terminate it. It further claims that Valneva failed to meet its obligations, which Valneva vigorously contests”, indicates the Franco-Austrian laboratory in a press release, Monday, September 13, without give more details.

For its part, London has, at this stage, provided no official explanation. However, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said British health authorities had “not approved a vaccine for Valneva,” saying the country was not counting on laboratory doses for the fall vaccinations and of winter.

The laboratory had submitted in August its request for authorization to the British health authorities for its vaccine candidate, VLA2001.

The title of the laboratory drops on the stock market

In reaction, the title of biotech collapsed by more than 40% on the Paris Bourse, to 11.64 euros, the biggest drop of the day on the Parisian market.

Founded in 2013 in the public laboratories of the National Institute for Agronomic and Environmental Research (INRAE), biotech Valneva is the result of the merger between the Austrian company Intercell AG and the French start-up Vivalis.

The company, which has 600 employees, already markets vaccines against Japanese encephalitis and cholera, and is also working, in particular, to develop a vaccine against Lyme disease,

“Valneva has worked tirelessly, and invested to the maximum of its abilities, in its collaboration” with the British government, “in particular by committing significant resources and by showing a very strong implication in order to respond to [ses] requests on vaccines suitable for variants, “highlights the laboratory on Monday.

The United Kingdom was the first to support it, placing an order from it last year: first for 60 million doses, then 40 million more, for 2021-2022.

Soon the results of clinical trials on humans

At the end of August, the biotech had indicated that, on the basis of the phase I and II trials (on a relatively small number of volunteers), it hoped “to have a vaccine which is effective in a manner greater than 80%”.

“In my opinion, it is certainly more a political decision than a medical and scientific stance: when we look at its results, Valneva is far from being ridiculous and defends itself very well in terms of effectiveness” against the Covid- 19, said Rafi Mardachti, CEO of Universal Medica Group, a consultancy in the pharmaceutical industry.

The laboratory recalls Monday that its results of phase III trials, the last on humans before a possible marketing, are expected at the beginning of the fourth quarter, potentially in a few weeks.

Discussions “underway” with the EU

The group says it “will increase its efforts with other potential customers to ensure that its inactivated vaccine can be used in the fight against the pandemic.”

At the end of August, Franck Grimaud, its director general, said that discussions with the European Union were also “still in progress”.

The British government has increased contracts with laboratories to ensure that it has enough vaccines, obtained by various technologies. Before this cancellation, he had ordered a total of 535 million doses, more than enough to vaccinate its entire population, including with several boosters.

With AFP