Coronavirus vaccine: pharmaceutical giants GSK and Sanofi team up to find a COVID-19 solution

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In a rare move, two of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers have teamed up to develop and produce a COVID-19 vaccine on a large scale.

Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline and France’s Sanofi plan to start clinical trials on their vaccine in the second half of this year, and if successful, they hope to make their product widely available by the second half of 2021.

“As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no business can go it alone,” said Sanofi President and CEO Paul Hudson in a statement.

“This is why Sanofi continues to supplement its expertise and resources with its peers, such as GSK, in order to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.”

It’s an already crowded field. Around the world, dozens of teams – from universities to companies like Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Inovio – are competing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, and at least 78 candidates are actively under study.

But GSK and Sanofi hope their size will give them an advantage, as the number of infections approaches 2 million worldwide.

“Ultimately, it’s not just about finding a candidate vaccine, it’s also about producing it on a very, very large scale. And we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of doses here, ”said David Loew, executive vice president of the vaccines arm of Sanofi, Sanofi Pasteur.

“Typically, small businesses don’t know how to do it. We have a lot of experience, being two very large producers, and we produce many other vaccines on a very large scale, “he told Euronews Tonight.

Prevent a second or third wave

The two companies said they were determined to make any vaccine they develop “affordable to the public” and accessible to people around the world. They did not elaborate.

Loew said it was too early to discuss pricing or how the two companies would share the financial gains from a vaccine. He said the goal at this point was “to discover, test and produce these vaccines that we desperately need on a massive scale.”

“Because our assumption is that there is going to be a second, third wave, and some epidemiologists even say that it could become a seasonal disease, so we clearly don’t yet know enough about the disease. We really need to focus on delivering the vaccine, this is really our quest here, “he said.

As part of this partnership, Sanofi Pasteur will test its COVID-19 experimental vaccine, based on recombinant DNA technology already proven in its influenza vaccine. GSK, meanwhile, will provide adjuvants – additives that boost the immune response and can reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose. This would produce more doses and therefore vaccinate more people.

Alliances all around

The process of getting a vaccine to market usually takes years. After the first safety trials, larger clinical studies are needed to test the vaccine’s effectiveness and monitor side effects, while manufacturing capacity needs to be increased.

Given the costs of research and development of vaccines and the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are now trying new types of partnerships.

Sanofi previously announced in February that it has partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (Barda), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for the development of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

“Strategic alliances between vaccine industry leaders are essential to making a coronavirus vaccine available as soon as possible,” said BARDA director Rick A. Bright.

The partnership between Sanofi and GSK “has the potential to reduce the dose of vaccine to provide a vaccine to more people to end this pandemic and help the world better prepare for and even prevent future epidemics of coronavirus “, he added.

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