Sanofi inks COVID-19 mRNA vaccine deal with Translate Bio

Sanofi’s Pasteur vaccines unit has joined with the US biotech Translate Bio to announce a partnership to develop an mRNA vaccine against the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 pandemic.

The French pharma is the latest to invest in mRNA technology to produce a vaccine – although unproven it could produce a product in a fraction of the time taken to develop compared with the cell cultures and eggs that were previously used to grow the products.

US-based Moderna became the first company to begin a trial of its mRNA vaccine against the disease, and if trials go well a product could be on the market within a year to 18 months.

Although this seems like an eternity to the millions of people who are currently unable to work because of the lockdowns in several countries to limit spread of the disease, it can take several years to develop and approve vaccines using older technology.

Moderna’s mRNA vaccine codes for a copy of the Spike (S) protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to gain entry into human cells.

Moderna has also said it could hurry the vaccine to market using an emergency use protocol if early stage trials go well.

Building on an agreement signed in 2018 Translate Bio has already begun to develop a number of vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.

Sanofi will provide expertise and support to advance the candidates for further development.

Translate Bio already has the ability to produce 100 gram single-batch production, and is building manufacturing space to accommodate at least two 250 gram batches per month.

Depending on the final human dose, Translate says the mRNA platform has “excellent promise” to meet the future demands for a pandemic response.

Since February Sanofi has been working with the US government agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on a separate protein-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19.

According to the Milken Institute’s regularly updated COVID-19 therapy tracker, there is one other vaccine candidate in development by CanSino Biologics and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology.

Including vaccines in preclinical stages there are 47 in development at the time of writing using a range of technologies including viral vectors, DNA, DNA plasmids and proteins.

Photo: Rocky Mountain Laboratories/NIH

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