Sanofi looks to previous SARS work in bid to speed up development of COVID-19 vaccine with BARDA

Sanofi announced Tuesday that it is teaming up with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 infections. According to the drugmaker, the partnership will leverage previous work for a SARS vaccine that it says "may unlock a fast path forward" for developing one against the new coronavirus. Financial details of the collaboration were not disclosed.

David Loew, global head of vaccines at Sanofi, stated "we are calculating that we are going to have a vaccine candidate available for in vitro testing within less than six months and potentially enter clinical trials within a year or a year and a half." He added "while we are lending our expertise where possible, we believe the collaboration with BARDA may provide the most meaningful results in protecting the public from this latest outbreak." 

Sanofi explained that it will use its recombinant DNA platform to produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.  According to the company, the sequence encoding proteins found on the surface of the virus will be combined into DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, which forms the basis of its licensed recombinant influenza product, and then used to rapidly produce large quantities of the novel coronavirus antigen. 

The drugmaker noted that in previous studies, the SARS vaccine candidate was "immunogenic and afforded partial protection" in animal models. It believes development work by Protein Sciences, which Sanofi acquired in 2017, "provides a head start in expediting a COVID-19 vaccine." Moreover, as there is already a licensed vaccine based on this platform, Sanofi said this should help advance the candidate "relatively quickly" toward clinical testing, while it also has the potential to manufacture large quantities of the product as well. 

The news follows Johnson & Johnson announcing last week that it is also collaborating with BARDA to speed up development of a COVID-19 vaccine, with technologies that it used to develop its Ebola vaccine. At the time, chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels said Johnson & Johnson's goal is to get a vaccine into clinical testing within eight to 12 months and make it available on a large scale soon after. 

Drugmakers working on initiatives in response to the COVID-19 outbreak also include Gilead Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline, among others. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: Gilead gains amidst pandemic pandemonium.

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