Covaxx inks supply deals worth $2.8B in lead-up to coronavirus vaccine midstage trials

Covaxx expects to enter its COVID-19 vaccine into phase 2/3 testing by the end of the year. (Getty)(Getty Images)

While some of the leading players in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine are racing toward the finish line, a range of smaller challengers is still hoping to carve out a market niche in the coming months. One of those, New York's Covaxx, is rolling out its first swath of supply deals—and touting its shot's logistics advantage.

Covaxx has inked a trio of deals with three South American nations to provide up to 140 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine at a price tag of $2.8 billion as the drugmaker prepares to enter phase 2/3 testing later this year. 

Brazil, Ecuador and Peru have all signed on to receive Covaxx's shot, dubbed UB-612, pending regulatory approval. Covaxx is ramping up production to produce 100 million doses in the first half of 2021 and then make a massive leap to churn out 1 billion doses by the end of the year. 

Covaxx wasn't clear in a release how it would get to that lofty number, and the vaccine is still in the early stages of testing as it prepares to wrap phase 1 trials.

While it lags in the clinic behind the major vaccine front-runners, Covaxx could eventually make up ground in logistics. The company forecast UB-612 would be stable at normal refrigerated temperatures, providing a potential leg up over mRNA-based shots that require more stringent cold-chain storage. 

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Running months behind some of the leading COVID-19 vaccines, Covaxx is betting that a late entry with favorable logistics will still carve out a market for its candidate. 

AstraZeneca, which read out early data showing an average 70% efficacy mark for its vaccine earlier this week, has made essentially the same pitch for its shot. The drugmaker's adenovirus-based vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temps of 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius (36 degrees to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and can be administered in "existing healthcare settings." 

Those lenient standards could make the vaccine a runaway favorite in developing nations that do not have the ultra-cold storage to keep and transport more restrictive mRNA vaccines—Pfizer and BioNTech's BNT162b2, for instance. 

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