Burned by EU backtrack, Valneva flags talks with potential partner for next-gen COVID-19 shot

European countries' decisions to backtrack on their large orders of Valneva’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to have sunk the company’s hopes of developing a successor shot. But the French biotech is now teasing that it is in partnering talks it hopes will give it the financial security it needs to pursue this ambition.

The vaccine-focused pharma has had mixed fortunes with its existing COVID-19 shot, dubbed VLA2001. While the company did win a belated European authorization this June, EU member states slashed their orders of the vaccine the following month, which neutered the success of its rollout.

The unwelcome development forced the company to suspend manufacturing of the vaccine and reevaluate its COVID-19 program. While Valneva pledged to continue to explore VLA2001's potential as a booster, it decided to halt work on a next-generation follow-up shot unless someone was found to front the cash.

For a while, it looked like Valneva would be surrendering the field to more established COVID-19 players like Pfizer and Moderna, which are racing to bring their own next-gen, multivalent vaccines to market. But the Paris-based company is trying to stay in the game, as it announced today that it’s in “active discussions” with a prospective partner that would fund the vaccine.

These discussions are likely to continue into “the coming months,” and the company won’t provide more details until it enters into a formal agreement, Valneva CEO Thomas Lingelbach said in a Monday morning release.

The biotech also hinted it may be on the way to finding a home for its unsold stock of VLA2001, adding it is in ongoing discussions with a number of governments with the aim of deploying its remaining inventory over the next 12 months.

More clinical data of the vaccine as a booster shot, which are due to read out in the fourth quarter of this year, may help secure these agreements, the company suggested.