Engaged in the vaccine race, French biotech Valneva is supported by the United Kingdom

In this month of April, Franck Grimaud does not know where to turn. A good point for the agenda of the CEO of the company Valneva, whose head office is in Saint-Herblain, on the outskirts of Nantes (Loire-Atlantique): here he is subject to a cure of media silence imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the American policeman of the Stock Exchange, after his company filed, Saturday April 10, a registration document for its listing on the Nasdaq.

Three days earlier, Valneva, which has 600 employees in six countries, had already placed itself in the spotlight, announcing the success of the first phases of the clinical study of its candidate vaccine against Covid-19. Called VLA2001, the program “Was well tolerated and no safety issues were identified” during the trial conducted on 153 healthy adults, aged 18 to 55 years. The company is working on the launch, by the end of the month, of a phase 3 clinical trial conducted on 4,000 patients in the United Kingdom.

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Born in 2013 from the merger of the Nantes laboratory Vivalis and the company Intercell (Austria), Valneva opted for the design of an inactivated vaccine, that is to say a treatment containing infectious agents of the virus which, rendered harmless , are able to trigger an immune system response. This technique has already been proven by Valneva “For the development of a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, which provides a protection rate of 98%”, indicated M. Grimaud to World, in January 2021.

But no one is a prophet in his country. Thus, failing to find sufficient funding in France, the company turned to the United Kingdom in the early hours of the pandemic. From the summer of 2020, the British Ministry of Health paid a firm order for 60 million doses of the vaccine candidate, deliverable at the end of 2021, and financed the construction of a new production unit in Livingston (Scotland), which will be operational in June. The contract has even been expanded: the United Kingdom is currently betting on 100 million doses, and has signed an option for 90 million additional doses by 2025. A final contract which would amount to 1.4 billion d ‘euros.

“Great potential”

If successful, France and Europe will come after, at a less advantageous price. “The United Kingdom has taken all the risks from the start, and has not hesitated to inject the credits which have made it possible to finance the development of clinical trials and our production capacities”, one argues on the side of Valneva. “France missed its first anti-Covid vaccine”, roared Christelle Morancais, president of the Pays de la Loire region. Criticizing the lack of responsiveness of the State, the elected Republicans recalls that with the regional prefect of the time, Claude d’Harcourt, she wrote a letter, on June 9, 2020, to Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister responsible for industry, “To alert him to the tremendous potential of Valneva”.

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