Pharmaceuticals giants Glaxosmithkline (GSK) and Sanofi are close to securing a £500m deal to supply the UK government 60m doses of their coronavirus vaccine, according to reports.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) is said to be taking an option to buy the vaccine from the two drugs companies if it proves successful in human trials due to begin in September, the Sunday Times reported.
The move will mark the first vaccine deal for each company, after the two rivals formed a research partnership in April.
The deal, which is expected to be announced in the coming days, will see British firm GSK supply an adjuvant, which prompts the body to produce antibodies, and French company Sanofi supply an antigen.
The £500m from the UK government will be paid in stages as the vaccine progresses through clinical trials, the Sunday Times reported.
The deal adds GSK and Sanofi to a long list of global pharmaceutical companies racing to produce a virus for the vaccine, after a sharp increase in infections in the West has renewed pressure to produce a long-term solution to the crisis.
Rival firm Astrazeneca in June struck an agreement with the EU to supply up to 400m doses of the University of Oxford’s vaccine by the end of 2020, should the drug pass its final phase of human trials.
In the meantime, countries around the world have been scrambling to stockpile coronavirus treatments in a bid to increase the chances of survival for those who have already contracted the virus.
Last month, the UK bought 200,000 courses of low-dose steroid dexamethasone in the hopes of saving around 5,000 lives in the UK and many more around the world. The cheap and widely available drug has been proven to cut the risk of death from around 40 per cent for patients on ventilators to 28 per cent.
Meanwhile, the US has stockpiled most of the world’s supply of remdesivir, an antiviral treatment produced by American drugs firm Gilead, in a move that has sparked concern the US will not cooperate in cross-border efforts to stub out the virus.
There have now been more than 11.2m confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world, with more than 528,000 fatalities.
Latin America and the Caribbean yesterday surpassed Europe’s number of infections, following a sharp upturn in cases in Brazil Peru, Chile and Columbia in recent weeks. Brazil has confirmed more than 61,500 deaths and nearly 1.5m infections and is currently the world’s second worst-hit country.
Meanwhile, a spike in new infections in countries that have begun to emerge from lockdown such as the US and Germany has amped up concerns of a second wave of the pandemic.
The US last week set a record for a one-day increase in cases, sparking a U-turn in many states’ plans to reopen. Parts of Texas re-entered lockdown last week after the number of coronavirus cases in the state nearly tripled in two weeks.