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Covid-19 Vaccine Race: GSK Aims To Be The Best And Not The First

Covid-19 Vaccine Race: GSK Aims To Be The Best And Not The First
The novel coronavirus pandemic has sent a large number of pharma companies to rush to find a vaccine for the virus. However one distinct name seems to be missing from this list of major drug makers of the world in the race to test and develop experimental immunizations against Cvoid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, GlaxoSmithKline - the largest vaccine maker of the world.
And according to the British company’s chief medical officer for vaccines Thomas Breuer, that is absolutely fine with the company.  The strategy of the company is to focus on adopting a slow and steady approach and concentrating on the use of an established technology so that the results bear the highest chances of coming out with a vaccine and one that is able to reach the widest possible demographic of the globe, he said.
With human trials starting as early as in March, the drug maker Moderna, the University of Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca, and an alliance of BioNTech and Pfizer managed to grabbed global headlines in terms of vaccine development for Covid-19.
It was just this Friday that GSK entered the clinical trial stage with one project out of a total of in seven collaborations with institutions or firms globally for trying ot develop a vaccine.
"We want to be best in class, and if others are a little faster I will congratulate them because they can take care of maybe the healthcare workers in selected countries, but the world needs billions of doses and we will contribute to this effort," Breuer told the media.
While the most advanced projects for the vaccine that is being carried out by GSK’s rivals are making use of novel genetic technologies and those efforts have been accelerated by conducting pre-clinical testing in labs instead of on animals, the British drug maker chose to aim at contributing a so-called adjuvant which is an efficacy booster that is combined with more traditional vaccines.
There can be longer or better efficacy, especially in the elderly, of the vaccines that are developed at a latter stage and with adjuvant technology, Breuer said. He pointed out to the vaccine Shingrix, GSK’s best seller which is a shingles vaccine with an adjuvant for older people and one that has been able to quickly take the place of an established rival product.
The plans of the company, as disclosed in May, include the production of 1 billion doses of the efficacy boosters for Covid-19 shots by next year. In comparison, the company usually produces close to 700 million or so vaccine doses every year against a range of diseases.
The strategy of GSK to minimize the risk of failure of development of  a Cvoid-19 vaccine is the creation of a wide range of partnerships, Breuer said, which allowed the company to focus its resources on its most promising technology against Covid-19. The company has however previously also worked on genetic vaccines.
"The best thing GSK can offer is making the adjuvant available to more than one company. We wanted to expose our technology to have several shots on goal," he said.
It is unlikely that a vaccine that works for and is available for most people would be available in the market before the second half of next year, GSK Group CEO Emma Walmsley said in April.
In contrast, an initiative by the United States to quickly develop a vaccine shot, called "Operation Warp Speed", aims to come out with a product available in the market by January of 2021.
There are more than 100 global players that are currently striving to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, the respiratory disease that has killed more than 350,000 people worldwide.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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