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Novavax shares rise after deal to supply the UK with 60 million doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Dr. Sonia Macieiewski (R) and Dr. Nita Patel, director of antibody discovery and vaccine development, are examining a sample of a respiratory virus, one of the labs for which a vaccine is being developed for the coronavirus COVID-19, on March 20, 2020 at the Novavax labs in Rockville, Maryland.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Novavax shares rose Friday after the company reached an agreement with the UK to supply 60 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine.

Novavax did not disclose the financial terms of the agreement. Under the agreement, the UK will work with the company on its Phase 3 clinical trial, which is expected to begin this quarter. The potential vaccine, named NVX-CoV2373, will be tested on around 9,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 85.

Novavax shares rose more than 8% in midday trading.

"We are honored to work with the UK government to deliver a vaccine that could provide crucial protection in the fight against the global health crisis," said Stanley Erck, CEO of Novavax, in a press release on Friday. "Our Phase 3 clinical trial in the UK will be an important component in evaluating the efficacy of NVX-CoV2373, which has already been shown to be generally well tolerated in a Phase 1 study and produces robust antibody responses."

The company already has a contract with the US government. Last month, the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed ‚Äč‚Äčinitiative announced it would pay Novavax $ 1.6 billion to develop and manufacture the potential vaccine, with a goal of delivering 100 million doses by early next year.

Novavax's vaccine contains synthesized parts of the surface protein that the coronavirus uses to infect humans.

Last week, the company announced that its potential vaccine had shown promising immune responses in an early clinical trial of 131 healthy participants.

The vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies that researchers believe are necessary to build immunity to the virus and killer T cells, the company said. In addition, the vaccine appeared to be well tolerated with no serious adverse events reported.

Novavax is among several companies that want to develop a vaccine against the virus that has infected more than 20.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 760,000 people as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the World Health Organization, more than 150 vaccines are being developed worldwide, of which at least 26 are already in human studies.

Late last month, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna announced that they had started their late-stage trials of potential coronavirus vaccines. These studies will involve approximately 30,000 participants.

Health officials expect to know if any of the many vaccines under development will be safe and effective by the end of this year or early 2021.

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