GlaxoSmithKline Joins COVID Vaccine Race With Phase 3 Trial

GlaxoSmithKline, along with its Canadian partner Medicago, are testing a plant-derived coronavirus vaccine candidate in a trial it hopes will reach at least 30,000 participants

GlaxoSmithKline  (GSK) - Get Report said Thursday that it's launched late-stage trials for its developing coronavirus vaccine candidate with a study base of more than 30,000 participants.

GlaxoSmithKline, along with its Canadian partner, the privately-held Medicago, will evaluate the efficacy of its plant-derived vaccine candidate, VIR-7831, in Canada and the United States in a Phase 3 study it hopes to launch before the end of the year. The pair said Phase 1 studies were 'very encouraging' and provided more than enough support for further clinical evaluation. 

"This is the first of several GSK COVID-19 vaccine candidate collaborations to start Phase 2/3 clinical testing and an important step forward in our contribution to the global fight against the pandemic," said GlaxoSmithKline's chief medical officer, Thomas Breuer. "We are delighted with the very promising Phase 1 results of Medicago's COVID-19 vaccine candidate in combination with GSK's pandemic adjuvant."

"Proven dose sparing and a high immune response due to GSK's adjuvant make us confident of delivering an efficacious vaccine with an acceptable safety profile in collaboration with Medicago," he added.

GlaxoSmithKline's U.S.-listed shares were marked 1.9% lower in early trading on the Nasdaq to change hands at $37.95 each.

GlaxoSmithKline's Phase 3 launch followed an update from Moderna Inc.  (MRNA) - Get Report late Wednesday on late-state trials of its 'messenger RNA' vaccine candidate, which Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, hinted could be as effective as Pfizer's  (PFE) - Get Report, which reached a 90% efficacy in study of more than 45,000 participants.

The World Health Organization says that around 150 potential vaccines are currently under some form of study, with 34 active human trials taking place from Russian to Bahrain.

Several U.S. firms are also in the hunt, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Report, Novavax  (NVAX) - Get Report and Pfizer, which said earlier this week that it could file for Emergency Use Approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration later this month, with the aim of providing some 1.3 billion doses of its BNT162 vaccine by the end of next year.