Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine will be strong competition for AstraZeneca and J&J, says GlobalData

Following the news that Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine showed superior neutralizing antibody levels and an equal seroconversion rate and protection against SARS-CoV-2, compared to AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria;

Philipp Rosenbaum, PhD, Senior Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“Valneva’s promising initial Phase III data, with at least equal protection levels and a superior tolerability profile compared to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, will make the French company’s vaccine a strong competitor in the European COVID-19 vaccine market.

“If Valneva’s safety data holds up, the low risk of thromboses events of AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s adenovirus vector-based vaccines may become another important factor in deciding which vaccine to use. While Valneva has a marketed vaccine, it is a small company and thus cannot match the manufacturing capacity of big pharma companies such as AstraZeneca or J&J.  Therefore, the company will have to find a strong partner and buyers.

“The data could also be bad news for the adenovirus vector-based vaccine technology in general. Valneva uses an inactivated vaccine technology, which is well established and can be ramped up quickly. The technology involves the virus being grown in cell-culture and then inactivated and additionally uses an adjuvant to enhance the immune response.

“Another advantage is that not only the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is included in the inactivated vaccine – like in adenovirus vector-based and mRNA vaccines – but all viral proteins are included. Thus, the human body can develop antibodies to different parts of the virus, potentially enhancing the immune response.

“With regards to effectiveness, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are still the clear leader. However, another interesting data point to observe will be the duration of protection against COVID-19. Long-term data from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna indicates that protection wanes after six months, making booster shots necessary, especially for high-risk groups. In case inactivated vaccine protection lasts longer, the public health question will be to decide whether a higher protection but more frequent boosters are preferable over lower but longer protection. However, all vaccines currently show great effectiveness in protection against severe disease and hospitalization.

“This leaves the future competitiveness of adenovirus vector-based COVID-19 vaccines unclear. Additionally, Novavax, with its recombinant nanoparticle vaccine, is close to launch and Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s recombinant protein vaccine is on track to launch next year. While both vaccines also use adjuvants, AstraZeneca has a great early-to-market advantage. Also, the company’s manufacturing collaboration with the Serum Institute of India is set to supply up to three billion COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021. Valneva has to evaluate if it can match Vaxzevira’s low price and still recoup its investment.”

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