WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish biotech firm Mabion has signed a preliminary agreement to manufacture Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine with financial support from a state-run fund, as the government strives to accelerate its vaccination programme.
European Union countries such as Poland have struggled to secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines sourced by Brussels, leading some to step up their own efforts.
Mabion said on Wednesday it had signed a framework agreement with Novavax for the transfer of the U.S. company's COVID-19 vaccination technology.
State-run PFR will provide Mabion with 40 million zlotys ($11 million) in loans and equity so the company can double its production capacity in central Poland.
"The biggest challenge when it comes to the availability of vaccinations is the production capacity. This is what all vaccine producers are struggling with and this is the cause of delays. This investment is a direct response to these problems," PFR Chief Executive Pawel Borys told a conference.
Poland reported a jump in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. With a population of around 38 million, it has so far inoculated over three million people, mostly with vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
It has also secured eight million doses of Novavax's vaccine as part of EU joint purchases. The vaccine is yet to be approved by EU regulators.
"We look forward to a close cooperation with Novavax, which may pave the way for commercial scale production, provided that technology transfer and technical batch are successfully completed", Mabion Chief Executive Dirk Kreder said in a statement.
Mabion said it expected the technology transfer and verification to be completed by the middle of 2021.
At 1046 GMT, Mabion shares were up 56% at 48.7 zlotys, valuing the company at around 669 million zlotys.
Borys said PFR would likely provide more financial support to Mabion if needed and invest in similar companies.
"This is one of the most interesting projects and one of the biggest chances for Poland to realistically start production of COVID-19 vaccines," Borys said.
($1 = 3.7526 zlotys)
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper. Editing by Louise Heavens and Mark Potter)