Novavax adds antigens to COVID-19 production pact with Indian vaccines giant

Despite a lackluster history of taking vaccines to market, Maryland's Novavax is streaking through clinical trials for its promising COVID-19 shot candidate. Going commercial is a whole other beast, however, and Novavax is now expanding one of its key manufacturing deals to aid the cause.

Novavax and the Serum Institute of India (SII) fleshed out an earlier manufacturing pact for the Maryland biotech's recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine to include production of the antigen used in the shot, the partners said Tuesday. 

SII will join five other manufacturers helping to produce the antigen component of Novavax's vaccine, dubbed NVX-CoV2373, while aiming to produce 1 billion doses of the shot specifically for low- and middle-income countries starting in mid-2021, Novavax said.

All told, Novavax's growing supply chain will enable it to produce up to 2 billion doses per year of NVX-CoV2373 once manufacturing fires up to full speed in the middle of next year. 

RELATED: Novavax aims for billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021—more than enough to supply U.S.

Among the chosen finalists for the Trump administration's Warp Speed project, Novavax has worked at light speed to boost capacity for a planned global rollout in the coming year. The company is wrapping up phase 2 testing now, CEO Stanley Erck said in Tuesday's release, and plans to launch phase 3 within weeks.

Meanwhile, in addition to inking deals and expanding its own network for antigen production, Novavax has ramped up manufacturing of its Matrix M adjuvant both internally and through outside partnerships.

In August, the biotech's executive team told analysts its bustling supply chain could be stout enough, in fact, to meet all of the expected U.S. demand for a vaccine, then pegged at roughly 500 million to 600 million doses per year.

To aid with the scale-up, Novavax in May purchased Praha Vaccines and its vaccine factory in the Czech Republic—enough capacity alone for 1 billion doses, Erck told analysts in August.

RELATED: Indian vaccine maker looks to raise $1B for COVID-19 shot manufacturing, trial efforts: report

Meanwhile, SII has partnered with five of the most promising vaccine hopefuls to aid their rollout plans and has eyed a major cash raise to help scale production.

In August, SII was reportedly pursuing $1 billion in fundraising by this month with the backing of private equity giants Blackstone and KKR, the Economic Times of India reported. The cash raise would be funded through a special purpose vehicle to boost manufacturing of the vaccines and support pivotal clinical trials, the Times said.