“When we started to develop our vaccine candidate we needed to push; now there is a massive pull from governments around the world,” says Thomas Lingelbach, CEO of Vienna-based pharmaceutical company Valneva, during my visit to his HQ at the Vienna Bio Center.
Work is intense at Valneva when we visit. The Austro-French vaccine company has been selected by the UK Government to deliver up to 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Department for International Trade (DIT) team here at the embassy supported Valneva from an early stage of the process. The vaccine will be manufactured at Valneva’s site in Livingstone, Scotland.
While Valneva’s staff in Vienna are working around the clock to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, their team in Livingston, Scotland is setting up a new production line for the vaccine. “This is rather unusual,” explains Valneva’s CEO, “normally a vaccine is developed, goes through clinical trials and if it’s proven effective and safe, the production is set up.” The race for a COVID vaccine has turned this well-established process upside down.
Around 100 vaccine candidates are being developed worldwide and the UK government has secured contracts with three different companies. Each of them has a different approach, but the same goal – to immunise and protect the public. This makes sense, as history shows that not every vaccine candidate will be successful.
There is an air of quiet focus in the Vienna labs. Staff in lab coats and protective suits are working in highly protected spaces directly with the virus. The protective suits are pressurised to avoid the virus entering; the lab is slightly depressurised to ensure the virus cannot escape.
It’s great to see Austro-British collaboration in the most important fight of our time. We wish the research team luck, and hope the investment of around £260m, creating 100 jobs, will go ahead over the months ahead.
From left: Markus Hauser (DIT), Leigh Turner (HM Ambassador), Thomas Lingelbach (CEO, Valneva), Dr. Wolfgang Bender (CMO, Valneva)