GSK and Sanofi Join Forces to Develop a COVID-19 Vaccine


As the world continues to wait with bated breath for a vaccine against COVID-19, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have joined forces to develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19.

The two companies are eying the second half of this year to begin clinical trials on their combined project and, if the vaccine meets expectations, the companies said it could be available for use in the second half of 2021. Terms of the collaboration have not yet been finalized, the companies said. Those terms, including financial, are expected to be completed sometime next week.

Under terms of the agreement that were announced, Sanofi will use its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology to develop the vaccine candidate. The company’s technology 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 company said. GSK will boost the antigen with its pandemic adjuvant technology. The use of an adjuvant is 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 protecting more people, GSK said.

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The companies have set up a Joint Collaboration Task Force, co-chaired by David Loew, Global Head of Vaccines at Sanofi and Roger Connor, President of Global Vaccines at GSK. The task force will seek to mobilize resources from both companies to look for every opportunity to accelerate the development of the candidate vaccine. In their announcement, both companies said they believe that global access to COVID-19 vaccines is a priority and both are committed to making any vaccine developed through the collaboration “affordable to the public and through mechanisms that offer fair access for people in all countries.”

Sanofi Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson said this morning that no company can go it alone in the fight against COVID-19. He said that is why Sanofi is complementing its own expertise and resources with its peers at GSK. Hudson said the companies have the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.

“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,” GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said in a statement.

This partnership is not the first foray into developing a treatment and vaccine against COVID-19, a disease that has now infected more than 2 million people across the globe. Both companies have multiple candidates against the disease in hopes of providing more shots on goal.

Last week, GSK forged an agreement with China’s Innovax to provide its vaccine adjuvant technology in support of a potential vaccine against the pandemic. Innovax is developing its COVID-19 XWG-03 vaccine candidate technology, which is based on a series of truncated S (spike) proteins which will be screened during the pre-clinical testing and a lead candidate will be determined by immunogenicity data. The company also struck a deal with Vir Biotechnology to use that company’s proprietary monoclonal antibody platform technology to accelerate existing and identify new anti-viral antibodies that could be used as therapeutic or preventative options against COVID-19.

Sanofi teamed up with Translate Bio to develop a novel messenger RNA vaccine against the virus, and is also working with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to advance a novel COVID-19 vaccine candidate. That agreement calls for Sanofi to initiate development of a recombinant, protein-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19. Sanofi is also working with its longtime partner Regeneron to assess the efficacy of rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara against COVID-19.

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