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Trials led by Gib doctor help secure UK vaccine deal

A vaccine trial that was headed by a Gibraltarian physician in Scotland has resulted in a deal to manufacture 60 million doses in the UK.

Gibraltarian Physician Dr Roy Soiza is the principal investigator the Scottish trials of the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine.

Earlier this year the vaccines were found to be 89% effective and in the months since Novavax has been awaiting approval for use.

Dr Soiza anticipates the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will approve Novavax for use in the UK in the coming days.

“The agreement to buy 60 million doses actually dates back to last year,” Dr Soiza told the Chronicle.

“What is new is the decision to manufacture the doses in the UK. Previously the vials were being manufactured in the Czech republic.”

“The UK Government decided to pre-order Novavax supplies last Autumn based on its strong performance in early, small-scale trials.”

“It also facilitated running a large scale trial within the NHS, and I was delighted to take the lead for one of the first trial sites.”

“The results of this trial vindicated this decision, with Novavax’s performance comparing very favourably with the vaccines that are already approved for use.”

Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will provide “fill and finish” manufacturing capacity at its Barnard Castle facility in the North East of England beginning as early as May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the deal between GSK, Novavax and the UK Government vaccines taskforce will “further boost our vaccine rollout”.

The “fill and finish” is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.

The GSK site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in GSK’s global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products.

The UK Government has secured 60 million doses of the vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with Novavax.

“The decision to manufacture it in the UK means that concerns with supplies due to Brexit are no longer an issue,” Dr Soiza said.

The protein antigen component of NVX-CoV2373 is also produced in the North East of England by Novavax’s manufacturing partner, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, at their site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.

Mr Johnson said he was delighted by GSK’s investment, “which shows the strength of UK manufacturing.”
“The vaccines taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK and this agreement will continue to support our approach,” Mr Johnson said.

“We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over-50s by April 15, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called.”

Dr Soiza has continued his work in the Novavax trials in Scotland over the past couple months.

His role included the up the trials and overseeing the work of 87 staff in Aberdeen and recruit volunteers.

Now, his team are following up on their volunteers.

“The Novavax trial is still ongoing as volunteers are being followed-up for a year, and we have ensured all volunteers that were given placebo as part of the trial will receive either Novavax or an approved vaccine,” he said.

“Further vaccine trials are planned and I am delighted to be leading them for NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen.”

Earlier this month, the company behind the Novavax jab announced it is 86% effective against the Kent variant and 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.

According to results of phase three trial in the UK, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.

The Novavax vaccine differs from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines.

The Novavax vaccine uses the coronavirus spike protein and resembles a traditional vaccine in its development.

Roger Connor, president of GSK vaccines, said the company was delighted to Novavax and the UK vaccines taskforce with this manufacturing arrangement for the UK.

“Our Barnard Castle facility is now undertaking the rapid preparation work required to manufacture up to 60 million doses of this vaccine,” Mr Connor said.

“We have ensured that we can deliver these volumes without impacting supply of our other vital medicines and vaccines, and without disruption to the other Covid-19 collaborations GSK is engaged in globally.”

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