The two companies announced that they have entered into an agreement to develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19, with each partner bringing their own expertise to bear on development.
After signing letter of intent, the companies revealed that they expect to be able to begin Phase I clinical trials in the second half of 2020, with a vaccine potentially available in the second half of 2021, depending on clinical success.
Though this runs on a slightly longer timeline than other vaccines being sped into the clinic, Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK, told BBC Radio that the world would need more than one vaccine to protect against further outbreaks of the virus.
As for why two of the largest companies had struck the deal together, Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, said, “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone.”
This is the approach that a number of companies have taken when preparing treatments or developing vaccines for COVID-19, not least with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation bringing together many of the largest pharma companies in the world to collaborate against the novel coronavirus.
In terms of what the two partners in this latest deal will bring to the table, Sanofi will add its S-protein COVID-19 antigen to GSK’s adjuvant technology.
According to the companies, such an approach is used in a number of vaccines currently available on the market, where the adjuvant is used to enhance immune response and provide longer-lasting immunity against infections than just through a vaccine.
Further than this, the companies noted that the adjuvant can also improve the ability to manufacture the vaccine at scale.
Both companies have set up a ‘joint collaboration task force’, headed by the leaders of the companies’ vaccines divisions, to accelerate the development of the vaccine.