Coronavirus: GSK and Sanofi join forces to create a vaccine

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Media captionResearch on “enormously accelerated” viral vaccines

GSK and Sanofi, two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical giants, are joining forces to try to create a vaccine to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The bad news is that the vaccine – even if successful – will not be ready until the second half of next year.

GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley told the BBC that vaccines typically take a decade to develop and test.

A plan to make a vaccine available in just 18 months has been a huge acceleration of the normal process, she said.

GSK is also involved in a merger with the other British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to help the government reach its goal of 100,000 tests by the end of April.

Emma Walmsley said she hoped the UK’s two largest pharmaceutical companies could help deliver 30,000 daily tests by the start of May.

A substantial contribution but which still leaves a long way to go to reach the objective.

GSK also said it would channel all benefits from its immunization program toward increased research and development into future viral threats.

When asked if it was appropriate for a company to take advantage of a global emergency, Emma Walmsley promised that the company would not make a net profit on vaccine sales and, with future investments in research , GSK would use all the profits to subsidize vaccine deliveries to developing countries.

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Other groups have promised faster vaccine results. Sarah Gilbert, a professor at Oxford University engaged in separate research for a vaccine, said she was “80% confident” that her team development would work by the fall.

There are currently more than 20 vaccines under development. Among those currently in progress:

  • The first human trial for a vaccine was announced last month by scientists in a laboratory in the American city of Seattle. They took the unusual step of skipping all animal research to test the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine.
  • Australian scientists have started to inject ferrets with two potential vaccines. It is the first full preclinical trial to go to animal testing, and researchers say they hope to go to human testing by the end of April.

GSK boss Walmsley said she wished other companies and partnerships good luck developing their own solutions.

But she also said they are uniquely positioned to bring the expertise, the complementary science and – perhaps most importantly – the muscle building to produce a desperately needed vaccine in the quantities needed.

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