Valneva has reported positive early results for its Covid-19 vaccine, giving the UK government a potential domestic supply of a shot that could be used as a booster or to tackle virus variants.
Matt Hancock, health secretary, said it was “fantastic” to see the “strong immune response” in the trial, which was funded by the UK government.
“This vaccine will be made onshore in Livingston in Scotland, giving another boost to British life science, and if approved will play an important role in protecting our communities,” he said.
The French vaccine maker will start its large late-stage trial this month, subject to regulatory approval.
The phase 1 and 2 study showed the jab elicited more antibodies in the group given the highest dose than were usually observed in recovered Covid-19 patients. More than 90 per cent of all study participants produced “significant” levels of antibodies to the virus. The vaccine also induced a response from T-cells, another critical part of the immune system.
There were no safety concerns, with the majority of side effects similar to those often observed with vaccines, including headaches and fatigue.
Valneva uses a whole inactivated virus, a more traditional approach than in the approved shots from Oxford/AstraZeneca, BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, which all focus on eliciting immune responses to the spike protein.
While whole inactivated virus vaccines can take longer to make than the newer mRNA or viral vector shots, they teach the immune system to recognise many parts of the virus.
Valneva has previously created an approved vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, an infection spread by mosquitoes.
The company has been working with the UK government on whether to adapt the vaccine for variants of Sars-Cov-2. Some of the existing vaccines are slightly less effective against the strain that first emerged in South Africa, and the virus is expected to continue to evolve.
The company said that these potential changes meant it expected to deliver the first 60m doses in the first quarter of 2022, rather than in 2021 as forecast. It was also in discussions with the EU about a 60m dose order.
Thomas Lingelbach, Valneva’s chief executive, said the vaccine had “potential advantages” and “an important role to play”.
“The world needs multiple vaccines as well as booster options,” he said.