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GSK to fill up to 60 mln Novavax vaccine doses for Britain

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FRANKFURT, March 29 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline has agreed in principle to handle the final part of the manufacturing process for up to 60 million doses of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine for use in Britain, widening the company's role in the fight against the pandemic.

GSK said in a statement on Monday it would step in from May for the final production steps and bottling into vials known as 'fill and finish' at its Barnard Castle facility in the northeast of England, without compromising supply of other vital medicines and vaccines.

A detailed agreement with the U.S. biotech firm Novavax and the UK government's Vaccines Taskforce has yet to be signed, it added.

Britain struck a deal to buy 60 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine candidate last August.

Novavax will manufacture some of the vaccine using Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies facilities in Stockton-on-Tees, northern England.

GSK and partner Sanofi suffered a development setback in December, delaying the planned launch of their jointly developed vaccine. But the British group has since widened its efforts to fight the pandemic, agreeing to collaborate on production and vaccine development with Germany's CureVac.

It is also working on treatments against COVID-19.

Novavax Inc's COVID-19 vaccine was shown this month to be 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original version of the coronavirus in a trial in Britain.

The vaccine was also found at the time to be 86% effective in protecting against the more contagious B117 variant, which was first identified in Britain and is now spreading globally.

If authorised, it would follow three COVID-19 vaccines previously approved for use in Britain from Pfizer PFE.N and partner BioNTech, Moderna Inc and the AstraZeneca shot developed with Oxford University. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger Editing by Gareth Jones)