Spain’s Hipra considers EU use of COVID-19 vaccine, rivaling Novavax

Band Joan Faus

AMER, Spain, December 3 (Reuters)Spain’s Hipra is confident that there will be demand from the European Union for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine once approved for use, as it is designed to protect against newer variants, can be moved easily and produced in large numbers. quantity, said a senior executive.

Spanish pharmaceutical company specializing in veterinary vaccines for around fifty years, Hipra hopes to start producing its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate – currently in phase II trials – in the first half of 2022 after receiving authorization from the Agency European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Elia Torroella, vice president and chief research and development officer of Hipra, told Reuters in an interview that she was confident the vaccine would be effective against the emerging variant of Omicron because it had shown protection during ‘testing against all known strains of the coronavirus, although she gave no details.

“It’s a vaccine that already takes into account the variants (of the coronavirus),” Torroella said. “The antigenic sequence of this vaccine already includes variants (so it could be redesigned), which means we have a good perspective to be able to cover future variants.”

In mid-November, the Spanish drug regulator authorized Hipra to conduct phase II trials of its vaccine, which uses a recombinant protein like that of the US drug maker Novavax. NVAX.O which is under review by the EMA.

But Torroella believes that the production of Novavax will be more complicated because it uses a whole spike protein that is less stable than the two-part protein from Hipra.

Hipra forecasts a production capacity of 600 million doses next year and double that in 2023.

“Some European countries are asking for vaccines based on recombinant proteins. We believe that there is a need and that our vaccine can play an important role,” said Torroella at the headquarters of Hipra in northeastern Spain.

She added that the Hipra vaccine could be a “very universal vaccine” because it could be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius – milder temperatures than those needed for other major vaccines.

EU authorities have purchased vaccine supplies for the next two years, but Torroella said Hipra believes there is sufficient demand and expects “maximum support” at the Spanish and European levels.

To date, Hipra has entered into a 50 million dose purchase agreement with Vietnam, where it is also performing testing.

The Spanish government has been a key backer for what would be Spain’s first COVID-19 vaccine, providing € 4 million for clinical trials, and is expected to give an additional € 15 million through loans and grants, Torroella said.

Hipra is present in more than 100 countries and its turnover reached 319 million euros in 2020.

(Reporting by Joan Faus, additional reporting by Horaci Garcia, editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Heinrich)

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