Sanofi, GSK team up to make vaccine for COVID-19

Sanofi and GSK today announced teaming up to work on a vaccine for COVID-19, as Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, and GSK contributing pandemic adjuvant technology.

Sanofi said it’s antigen is based on recombinant DNA technology which has produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus, and the DNA sequence encoding this antigen has been combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, the basis of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant influenza product in the US.

GSK’s proven pandemic adjuvant technology can be of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore contributing to protect more people, GSK said.

Paul Hudson, CEO Sanofi, said it is clear that no one company can go it alone.  He said that is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.

Emma Walmsley, CEO GSK, said that this collaboration brings two of the world’s largest vaccines companies together. “By combining our science and our technologies, we believe we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19,” Walmsley said.

GSK noted that the combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant, is well-established and used in a number of vaccines available today. An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, and has been shown to create a stronger and longer lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone. It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale, GSK explained.

In the announcement, GSK said that the companies plan to initiate phase I clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful and subject to regulatory considerations, aim to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021. 

As previously announced by Sanofi, development of the recombinant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being supported through funding and a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), in the US, GSK noted. Furthermore, the companies plan to discuss funding support with other governments and global institutions prioritising global access.

BARDA Director, Rick A. Bright, Ph.D., said that strategic alliances among vaccine industry leaders are essential to make a coronavirus vaccine available as soon as possible. Bright said that development of the adjuvanted recombinant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate holds the potential to lower the vaccine dose to provide vaccine to a greater number of people to end this pandemic, and help the world become better prepared or even prevent future coronavirus outbreaks.

In the press release it was revealed that the companies have set up a Joint Collaboration Task Force, co-chaired by David Loew, Global Head of Vaccines, Sanofi and Roger Connor, President Vaccines, GSK.

Considering the extraordinary humanitarian and financial challenge of the pandemic, both companies believe that global access to COVID-19 vaccines is a priority and are committed to making any vaccine that is developed through the collaboration affordable to the public and through mechanisms that offer fair access for people in all countries, it was said in the press release.

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