Everest to continue mRNA ascent alone after shedding Providence partnership

The collaboration between Everest Medicines and Providence Therapeutics back in 2021 marked a significant step up for the Chinese mRNA sector. But, now, Everest will continue the ascent alone.

The original deal gave Everest the Asia rights to Providence’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate PTX-COVID19-B and follow-up mRNA assets. Canada’s Providence had been studying the vaccine in a phase 2 trial, having previously shown the candidate triggered the production of neutralizing antibodies that work against the original coronavirus and variants. Providence also had variant-specific shots in preclinical testing.

The monovalent COVID-19 vaccine went on to show noninferiority to Pfizer’s Comirnaty in a phase 2 trial in 2022. Everest had been lining up a subsequent omicron-targeting bivalent COVID-19 booster last year to enter human trials in China.

Last year also saw the company open its own mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Jiashan in the Zhejiang province, which Everest said at the time would soon allow it “to fulfill the demand for mRNA vaccines in China, Asia and globally.”

Now, Everest has decided to terminate the agreement with Providence, the biotech announced Sunday. The company will retain “full rights to all intellectual property rights provided, transferred, or made available by Providence … prior to the effective date,” according to a Feb. 18 release.

The plan is to “continue to develop its own products utilizing the mRNA platform” but now with the “flexibility” to align this R&D work with its own “strategy and goals,” the Chinese biotech added.

Under the terms of the original contract, Everest will hand over $4 million to end the collaboration. Providence will also remain eligible for milestone and royalty payments off the back of the rabies and shingles vaccines that the two companies have been working on together. But Everest won’t have to pay out any biobucks for other mRNA products it develops from now on.