GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi team up to develop adjuvanted vaccine against COVID-19

GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi said Tuesday that they will combine their technologies in an effort to develop an adjuvanted vaccine against COVID-19, with Phase I trials expected to start in the second half. "As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone," commented Paul Hudson, chief executive of Sanofi.

Under the collaboration, GlaxoSmithKline's pandemic adjuvant technology will be paired with Sanofi's S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. The French drugmaker noted that the DNA sequence encoding the antigen has been combined into the baculovirus expression system that forms the basis of its licensed recombinant influenza product in the US. The companies indicated that if successful, they aim to complete the development required for availability of the vaccine by the second half of 2021.

Commenting on the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Emma Walmsley said "if we're successful, we’ll be able to make hundreds of millions of doses annually by the end of next year." Walmsley noted that GlaxoSmithKline may manufacture the adjuvant at sites in the UK, Europe and the US, while any short-term profit from a successful vaccine will be reinvested into COVID-19 research and long-term pandemic preparedness. Vaccines are "core to the exit plan that the world needs," she remarked, suggesting that more than one will be needed to meet demand.

Meanwhile, a joint task force co-chaired by David Loew, global head of vaccines at Sanofi, and Roger Connor, president of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, has been set up to mobilise resources from both companies in a bid to accelerate development of the candidate vaccine. The drugmakers said they have entered a material transfer agreement allowing them to start working together immediately, with definitive terms of the partnership expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

In February, Sanofi entered into a collaboration with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to advance a recombinant, protein-based vaccine candidate against COVID-19, and more recently expanded an existing agreement with Translate Bio to include developing an mRNA vaccine for the disease. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline, which has been focussed on providing adjuvants as part of its efforts against the coronavirus, is also partnered on vaccine work with Clover Biopharmaceuticals and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Last week, Inovio Pharmaceuticals launched a Phase I trial of its INO-4800 DNA vaccine candidate for SARS-CoV-2, making it the second potential COVID-19 vaccine to undergo clinical testing, after Moderna's experimental mRNA vaccine mRNA-1273 was first administered to a patient in mid-March.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: COVID-19 vaccines in focus.

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