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Scotland enters race for coronavirus vaccine with £1.4 billion contract

An ‘old school’ coronavirus vaccine to be manufactured in a small plant in Scotland could offer “better, longer and broader protection levels” to high risk groups compared to its high tech rivals.

The research team behind the jab, which is to be made in a plant just outside Edinburgh, signed a £1.4 billion contract with the government this week to provide 60 million doses of its Covid-19 shot by the end of next year, if it proves successful in trials.

Unlike front runners including Oxford-AstraZeneca, which have won plaudits for their use of state-of-the-art technology platforms, the team behind the new project is betting on a traditional “inactivated” of the sort being pursued by China.

Experts say that while slower to produce, such vaccines should provide broader protection, especially in vulnerable groups and may be less prone to trigger adverse reactions. This is because they use a deactivated version of the Sar-sCov-2 virus itself rather than a mashup of genetic material from other sources.

The vaccine will be grown in a plant in Livingstone near Edinburgh and is backed by a European team with labs in Vienna Austria and Nantes, France. 

In an interview with the Telegraph Thomas Lingelbach, chief executive of Valneva, the biotech behind the project, said he believed it vital for Europe to develop a vaccine which would work for “special target” groups – including the elderly, the immunocompromised and children.

“We have a significant number of new technologies in the Covid environment right now which have never been proven in a full human setting at a large scale, either in terms of safety or in terms of efficacy. And they have never been used in special target populations.

“But we have been very well aware of [inactivated vaccines] for almost 100 years… the technology is well established and has a high probability of success.

“We thought that it’s important that we contribute our vaccine technology to this Covid-19 portfolio in order to ensure that we have something that has worked in the past in special target populations and has proven to work at scale.”

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