Sanofi and GSK announced that they have signed a letter of intent to enter into a collaboration to develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19, using innovative technology from both companies, to help address the ongoing pandemic.
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 influenza product in the US.
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.
Paul Hudson, chief executive officer of Sanofi, said, “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone. That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, intending to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.”
Emma Walmsley, chief executive officer of GSK, said, “This collaboration brings two of the world’s largest vaccine 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.”
The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well-established and used in several 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, 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 US. The companies plan to discuss funding support with other governments and global institutions prioritizing global access.
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 taskforce will seek to mobilize resources from both companies to look for every opportunity to accelerate the development of the candidate vaccine.
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.
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.