The dark horse of the vaccine race may be this French biotech firm


PARIS (BLOOMBERG) – As the battle with Covid-19 rages around the world, a small French biotech firm has a possible solution for the long-term war against the virus and the rapidly spreading mutations.

The company, Valneva SE, has a vaccine that could be more variant-proof, giving it an edge over other shots in what may be an annual campaign against a disease that has already killed more than three million people.

The first participant in its phase three trials will be dosed this week. If successful, that could lead to an approved shot this autumn.

Valneva’s shot is the only candidate in clinical trials in Europe that uses a tried-and-true vaccine technology involving an inactivated version of the whole virus it is targeting.

Inactivated vaccines – a century-old approach adopted for flu and polio – take a sample of the disease that has been killed and use it to stimulate an immune response without creating infection.

With all the other Covid-19 vaccines in the region focused on the virus’ spike protein, the shot could protect against variants that might compromise others, making it the perfect booster.

The company already has a deal with the UK to supply up to 190 million doses.

Ms Kate Bingham, former head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, says that if the shot is successful, it will probably be used as a winter booster for older adults.

“Having that broader antigenic real estate from a whole virus vaccine really matters,” she said.

“Viruses mutate. So, by having a broader immune response, which you get with a whole vaccine, you can potentially provide that ongoing protection.”

The healthcare implications in a post-Covid world are huge. And for Valneva, with a US$100 million (S$133 million) listing planned on Nasdaq this year, the financial stakes are high.

The UK contract is worth up to €1.4 billion (S$2.25 billion), more than 10 times its annual revenues last year.

The company said on Thursday that it will sell about 7.1 million shares in the offering, and use the proceeds to fund the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as the