Ironing out production problems has allowed Novavax to finalize a handshake deal with Europe that it made in December to supply its COVID-19 vaccine.
On Wednesday, the European Commission said it approved a deal to purchase 200 million doses of the Maryland-based biotech's protein-based vaccine, which has yet to gain approval in the U.S. or Europe.
The contract calls for Novavax to provide 100 million vaccine doses, with an option for another 100 million by the end of 2023. The company said it is working to complete the rolling submission to the European Medicines Agency in the third quarter of this year.
A preliminary agreement on the deal was reached in December, but Novavax delayed its completion because of difficulty securing raw materials to produce the shot. In April, Novavax CEO Stanley Erck told The Observer that a shortage of 2,000-liter bags was a threat to the global supply of vaccines. Around that time, the company altered its projection to be able to supply 150 million vaccine doses per month by the end of June.
Tiny Novavax has been an unlikely COVID-19 vaccine success story. Despite never bringing a product to the market, the company won a $1.6 billion contract from the U.S. to develop the shot and supply 100 million doses. It also has committed 1.1 billion doses to middle- and low-income countries.
The move allows Europe to diversify its vaccine stock. After contending with supply problems and safety concerns with the adenovirus vector vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, the bloc announced that it would not renew contracts with those companies, leaving it heavily dependent on shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
“Our new agreement with Novavax expands our vaccine portfolio to include one more protein-based vaccine, a platform showing promise in clinical trials,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.
GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, who are partnering on a protein-based vaccine that has yet to be approved, also have signed a supply deal with the EU. The bloc additionally has an agreement in place with CureVac to supply 405 million doses of its mRNA shot, which the company has struggled to develop.
The mRNA shot produced by Pfizer-BioNTech is the overwhelming favorite in Europe. The companies have signed on to supply the bloc with 2.4 billion doses, while Moderna has agreed to provide 460 million shots.
Earlier this week, the Financial Times reported that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna raised the prices of their shots in their most recently signed contracts with Europe.