Sanofi and GSK join forces on coronavirus vaccine

As the world waits with bated breath for a coronavirus vaccine, two of the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturers, Sanofi and GSK, have announced they are teaming up to develop an adjuvanted candidate, combining technology from both companies.

Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. This 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 basis of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant flu jab in the US. 

Meanwhile, GSK will contribute its pandemic adjuvant technology. An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response. It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale. 

The use of an adjuvant can therefore be particularly important in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more doses to be produced.

The combination of a protein-based antigen and an adjuvant is already used in a number of vaccines available today. 

The companies say they plan to initiate phase I clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful, to complete the development required for availability by the second half of 2021. 

The companies have set up a Joint Task Force – co-chaired by David Loew, Sanofi’s global head of vaccines, and GSK’s president of vaccines Roger Connor – to mobilise resources from both companies and seek opportunities to accelerate development.

In a statement the companies added: “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.” 

The companies have entered into a Material Transfer Agreement to enable them to start working together immediately. Definitive terms of the collaboration are expected to be finalised over the next few weeks.

Both companies are already collaborating with smaller firms on coronavirus vaccines. GlaxoSmithKline is working with China’s Xiamen Innovex to test a recombinant protein-based coronavirus vaccine candidate, known as COVID-19 XWG-03. And Sanofi has partnered with the US biotech Translate Bio to develop an mRNA vaccine against the virus.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.