Novavax Inc is buying a manufacturing plant from privately held Serum Institute of India, the world's largest maker of vaccines by volume, as the U.S. company aims to produce 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate next year.
The U.S. company said on Wednesday it would buy Czech Republic-based Praha Vaccines, a unit of India's Cyrus Poonawalla Group, which also owns Serum Institute, for $167 million in cash. Novavax is one of several companies in the race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, that has no current treatment or vaccine and has already killed about 350,000 people.
While experts have predicted that a shot will likely take 12-18 months to develop, vaccines are seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their stalled economies after months of sweeping lockdowns.
Last week, the United States secured almost a third of the first 1 billion doses planned for AstraZeneca's experimental COVID-19 vaccine by pledging up to $1.2 billion, sparking fears the richest countries will be able to protect their citizens first. Novavax on Tuesday enrolled its first participant in an early stage study testing the vaccine candidate in humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that 10 experimental vaccines were being tested on humans, including the Novavax compound. Groups including CanSino, Moderna and an alliance between Oxford University and AstraZeneca are in various stages of development of a safe and effective vaccine.
Novavax's deal will help provide an annual capacity of over 1 billion doses of antigen starting in 2021 for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373. Shares of Novavax, which has no drug on the market, were down 9% in early trading. The stock had risen more than 1,000% in 2020 through Tuesday close.
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