Sanofi forges $1.2bn alliance with vaccines firm Novavax

Sanofi forges $1.2bn alliance with vaccines firm Novavax

Sanofi has licensed joint commercial rights to Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine and will work with the biotech on the development of combined flu/COVID shots in a deal worth up to $1.2 billion.

The new agreement – which includes an upfront payment of $500 million – will help to deflect criticism levelled at Novavax by one of its top investors, claiming it has failed to make the most of its COVID shot and other vaccine technologies.

Sanofi – which has taken a sub-5% equity stake in Novavax for $70 million – said the alliance will expand access to the biotech’s protein-based adjuvanted COVID vaccine Nuvaxovid/Covovax from next year onwards. The license covers the entire world except in markets such as India, Japan, and South Korea, where agreements are already in place.

The two companies will also collaborate on the development of a novel flu-COVID combination vaccine, based on authorised vaccines, which will be solely commercialised by Sanofi if approved.

“With flu and COVID-19 hospital admission rates now closely mirroring each other, we have an opportunity to develop non-mRNA flu-COVID-19 combination vaccines offering patients both enhanced convenience and protection against two serious respiratory viruses,” said Jean-Francois Toussaint, Sanofi’s global head of vaccines R&D.

The French pharma group noted multiple times in its announcement of the alliance that Novavax’s vaccine platform isn’t based on mRNA. Activist investor Shah Capital – which has lobbied for changes at the company – has repeatedly asserted that greater effort should be taken at Novavax to promote its shot as an alternative for patients who may be nervous about getting vaccinated with mRNA products.

Shah Capital also said that Novavax wasn’t making the most of its Matrix-M adjuvant, so it is perhaps notable that Sanofi has also taken a non-exclusive license to use the technology in its vaccine products.

Novavax has previously said that it is expecting phase 3 results for a COVID/flu vaccine in the second half of this year, with a launch slated for 2026, and the agreement with Sanofi points to the potential for multiple combinations. Sanofi is one of the world’s top producers of flu vaccines with sales of €2.7 billion ($2.9 billion) last year.

Novavax meanwhile achieved revenues of $1 billion in 2023 from its COVID vaccine and has said it expects to make $800 million to $1 billion this year after delivering an updated version of the shot for the autumn vaccination season.

The deal with Sanofi includes up to $700 million in development, regulatory and launch milestones, as well as double-digit percentage royalties on sales of COVID and flu-COVID combination vaccines.

“This collaboration is important for Novavax and for global public health,” said Novavax’s chief executive John Jacobs. “Together, we can broaden access to both our COVID-19 vaccine and our adjuvant to ensure more individuals can benefit from the protection vaccines can provide.”