Shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) dropped five per cent this afternoon after the British pharmaceuticals firm reported a drop in quarterly sales.
GSK said it expected the ongoing pandemic to impact its vaccine business for other diseases, with disruption likely to last at least until the first half of the year.
The pharma giant reporter a one per cent fall in sales in the fourth quarter, while adjusted earnings per share dropped five per cent to 23.3p.
“Despite this short-term impact we remain very confident in demand for these products, and expect strong recovery and contribution to growth from [shingles vaccine] Shingrix in the second half of the year,” the group said in a statement.
However, GSK buoyed global hopes of a swift exit from the pandemic this morning after it announced it would explore the creation of a new Covid vaccine specifically suited to emerging mutations.
In a new £150m partnership, GSK and German firm CureVac will work together with the aim of offering broader protection against a variety of different Covid-19 variants, and to enable a quick response to new variants potentially emerging in the future.
Development will begin immediately, with the target of introducing the new vaccine in 2022, subject to regulatory approval.
GSK will also support the manufacturing of up to 100m doses of CureVac’s first generation Covid-19 candidate CVnCoV in 2021.
The news comes after health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced the coronavirus variant first identified in Kent has acquired a mutation that may be partially resistant to existing vaccines.
The E484K mutation is the same change that has been identified in both the Brazilian and South African variants that have sparked international concern.
Speaking on Sky News this morning, Hancock said it was critical that news variants were “stamped out”.
“We’ve put in extra testing in place, with clear instructions to stay at home and avoid all other contact – that’s important,” he added.
The health secretary said the new variants meant we may need boosters of an adjusted vaccine to stay protected.
Antibodies for six months
Elsewhere a study from UK Biobank found nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) people who have had Covid-19 retain antibodies for six months, while 99 per cent of those who have had the virus retained antibodies for three months.
By December 2020 some 8.8 per cent of the UK population had been infected with Covid-19, with the number rising to 12.4 per cent in London.
More than 10m people in the UK have now received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with the government well on track to achieve its target of immunising the four most vulnerable groups by mid-February.