Novavax exec says its new COVID shot should work against variants on the rise

<html xmlns=""><head><title>REFILE-Novavax exec says its new COVID shot should work against variants on the rise</title></head><body>

Removes extraneous word in paragraph 9

By Michael Erman

June 5 (Reuters) -Novavax Inc's NVAX.O head of research and development on Monday said an updated COVID-19 vaccine the company is already producing is likely to be protective against other fast-growing coronavirus variants circulating in the U.S.

Protein-based vaccines like Novavax's take longer to produce than the messenger RNA-based (mRNA) versions made by Moderna MRNA.O and Pfizer PFE.N/BioNTech 22UAy.DE.

Because of that, the company said earlier this year it had begun producing a version of the vaccine to target the currently dominant XBB.1.5 variant of the virus at commercial scale.

A panel of outside advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to meet on June 15 to discuss strain selection for this year's COVID-19 booster shots, and regulators are expected to make their decision shortly afterward.

Novavax R&D chief Filip Dubovsky in an interview made the case for the XBB.1.5-targeting vaccine, saying it was a good approach that should also provide protection against related variants on the rise, such as XBB.2.3.

"You'd want the 1.5 more than likely" if your aim was to target newly circulating variants, he said. "The XBB.2.3 is a little bit closer to 1.5."

The company has a lot riding on its updated COVID booster.

With an underused COVID-19 as vaccine its lone product, Novavax said earlier this year it may not be able to stay solvent and is relying on a successful launch of an updated shot in time for a booster campaign this fall to improve its prospects.

Dubovsky said the company has also started work on vaccines that target the XBB.1.16 and XBB.2.3 variants, but that those are at an earlier stage of development.

A meeting of international regulators last month chaired by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's top vaccine regulator, Peter Marks, concluded that an XBB strain of the virus was an "adequate candidate" for the vaccine update.

Marks also presented data at that meeting suggesting that the spike proteins on the surface of newer variants were close enough to XBB.1.5 to make it likely an effective choice for next generation boosters.

Reporting by Michael Erman
Editing by Bill Berkrot


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