Vaccines could still take up to eight years to be developed even after the speedy work shown by developers this year, the head of a biotechnology firm has said.
The rolling submissions model used by regulatory bodies to speed through approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been in the pipeline for 20 years, Thomas Lingelbach, head of Valneva, one of seven companies working on a Covid-19 vaccine for Britain.
But it was this year that the model really came into its own during the unprecedented global race for a coronavirus vaccine.
Yet though successful, Lingelbach said he does not believe the model will become the industry norm as it is more risky for companies.
“This is a major operational and financial risk because you typically have done only one shot on goal instead of testing various options and selecting one, moving to the next step, selecting one, moving to the next step,” he told dpa.
“I don’t think that this is going to set the standard going forward,” he said, though the industry and regulators might see some acceleration in the process as a result of Covid.
“It’s probably going to result in the average vaccine development timeline getting reduced from, say, 10 years to probably seven or eight, which would already be a very, very nice achievement,” he said.
Lingelbach added that he had been “impressed” by the level of flexibility the regulators had shown in the process, and stressed that “no corners had been cut.”
“They have all gone the extra mile … making the process an iterative process rather than a push-pull process,” he said. “I sincerely hope that some of it will continue above and beyond Covid for new other vaccines to come.”
Valneva, which was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in France, has an industry regulator-approved manufacturing site based just outside of Edinburgh, in Scotland.
A total of 130 people are there currently working on the vaccine, while 30 people are working on it from a base in Sweden and another 30 in Austria.
Around 100 people started working on the vaccine from its Scottish base in March and Lingelbach said the firm is planning to create 200 jobs there next year.
Aside from its work on Covid-19, Valneva creates vaccines for other illnesses, such as cholera and Japanese encephalitis.