Pharma Titans Team To Tackle COVID-19

GSK and Sanofi SARSCoV2 vaccine candidate will combine a protein-based antigen with an adjuvant
pandemic virus photo
(Precision Vaccinations)

Considering the extraordinary humanitarian challenge of ending the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, two leading pharmaceutical companies believe establishing a collaboration is the best tactic for bringing a world-class vaccine.

Announced in a joint press release on April 14, 2020, GSK and Sanofi said the ‘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.’

This new collaboration marks a significant milestone in Sanofi’s and GSK’s ongoing contributions to help fight COVID-19.

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 finalized over the next few weeks.

Sanofi said it 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 influenza product in the US.

And, GSK will contribute its proven pandemic adjuvant technology to the collaboration. 

The use of an adjuvant can be 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, said these companies.

The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well-established and used in a number of vaccines available today. 

An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response and has been shown to create a stronger and longer-lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone. 

It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale. 

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

As previously announced by Sanofi, the development of the recombinant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being supported through funding and a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), in the USA.

BARDA Director, Rick A. Bright, Ph.D., added in the press release, “Strategic alliances among vaccine industry leaders are essential to make a coronavirus vaccine available as soon as possible.”

“Development of the adjuvanted recombinant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate holds the potential to lower the vaccine dose to provide vaccine to a greater number of people to end this pandemic, and help the world become better prepared or even prevent future coronavirus outbreaks.”

The companies have set up a Joint Collaboration Task Force, co-chaired by David Loew, Global Head of Vaccines, Sanofi and Roger Connor, President Vaccines, GSK.

The companies plan to discuss funding support with other governments and global institutions prioritizing global access.

Precision Vaccinations publishes SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development news.