Sanofi and GSK Collaborate on COVID Vaccine

Availability is targeted for H2 2021

15.04.2020 -

Two leading European drugmakers, France’s Sanofi and Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) have signed a letter of intent to develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19, exploiting advanced technology from both companies.

Phase 1 clinical trials with the vaccine are due to begin in the second half of this year, and, if successful, the companies expect to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021, providing regulatory approval has been granted.

Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen based on recombinant DNA technology, which is being used to develop the vaccine candidate being supported through funding and a collaboration with the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The Paris-based player is also in a collaboration with Translate Bio focusing on mRNA vaccines to develop a candidate for COVID-19

Sanofi said its technology has produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus. The DNA sequence encoding the antigen has been combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, which forms the basis of the French vaccine specialist’s licensed recombinant influenza product in the US.

GSK is contributing its pandemic adjuvant technology to the project. The use of an adjuvant can be of particular importance in a pandemic situation, the UK drugmaker stressed, since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose. This would allow more vaccine doses to be produced.

The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well established and used in a number of vaccines available today, the British pharma noted. It can enhance the immune response and create a stronger and longer- lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone and, moreover, can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale. 

 Separately, GSK is also allowing its adjuvant tech to be utilized by various researchers.

“As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone,” said Sanofi’s CEO Paul Hudson. Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, added that the combination of the two vaccine makers’ scientific expertise, technologies and capabilities can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from Covid-19.

The companies have set up a joint task force, co-chaired by David Loew, Sanofi’s global head of Vaccines, and Roger Connor, president Vaccines at GSK. The taskforce will seek to mobilize resources from both partners to look for every opportunity to accelerate the development of the candidate vaccine.

Sanofi and GSK have additionally entered into a material transfer agreement, allowing them to start working together immediately. Definitive terms of the collaboration are expected to be finalized over the next few weeks.

Beyond the US, the two European companies plan to discuss funding support with other governments and global institutions prioritizing global access. At the same time, they stressed that said they are committed to making any vaccine developed through the collaboration affordable to the public and through mechanisms that offer fair access in all countries.

The two drugmakers said additionally during a conference call with journalists that they are planning to build manufacturing capacity “at risk." Because of GSK and Sanofi’s “combined scale," the partners could deliver hundreds of millions of doses annually, starting next year, Walmsley said.