Novavax, coronavirus shot data in hand, strikes an eye-popping supply deal with global vaccine consortium

COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax has at times flown under the radar as some of the world's leading drugmakers dominated headlines and raced toward rollouts. But an eye-popping new supply deal with international players is sure to turn heads.

Novavax on Thursday unveiled a memorandum of understanding with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to provide 1.1 billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate to COVAX, a global effort to ensure equitable vaccine distribution. The Serum Institute of India will help produce doses under a prior deal between that company and Gavi.

The deal will support work by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization to distribute doses in every country worldwide.

Gavi and Novavax are working to finalize an advance purchase agreement. Seth Berkley, Gavi's CEO, said in a statement the deal "brings the COVAX Facility one step closer to its goal of supplying vaccines globally and ending the acute phase of the pandemic." Gavi aims to deliver 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines this year, he added.

As part of its effort to make the vaccine available worldwide, Novavax licensed its tech to the Serum Institute "with no upfront, milestone or technology transfer payments." 

Under the COVAX agreement, Novavax expects to provide doses for high-income markets, while Serum Institute will manufacture doses for other countries.

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While Novavax hasn't yet scored emergency authorizations for its vaccine, some market watchers have touted the vaccine's data against other prominent players. After the company posted phase 3 data last month, Evercore ISI analyst Josh Schimmer wrote to clients that he sees Novavax as the "vaccine to beat." The shot features "strong potency and unique tolerability," he added.

In a phase 3 trial in the U.K., the vaccine posted efficacy of 89.3% despite challenges from a new variant circulating there. Efficacy was lower in a separate trial in South Africa.

Along its development path, the shot has scored backing from CEPI and the U.S. government. Novavax also has a $1.6 billion deal with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses.