The US government’s strategy for ensuring it has adequate supplies of any viable COVID-19 vaccine has been to tie financial support for development and manufacturing costs to a specific number of vaccines.
The latter deal appears similar to the one the US government struck with GSK and Sanofi, which saw it secure an initial 100 million doses of their vaccine in return for providing $2.1bn (€1.7bn) in funding.
In a joint statement, the two partners outlined that half of this figure will be used to support further development of the vaccine and the remainder will be used for the manufacturing scale-up required to produce this number of doses, as well as the doses themselves.
Following a similar line to the Pfizer and BioNTech deal, the latest agreement also has an option for the US government to acquire an additional 500 million doses in the long-term, as part of Operation Warp Speed’s goal to supply the US population with a viable vaccine by the beginning of 2021.
“The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said US Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar.
The strategy employed by the US government seems to be to spread funding as widely as possible, as suggested by Azar, to try guarantee at least one vaccine will emerge as an option for the country’s population.
Few details have emerged from Sanofi and GSK’s combined effort after the announcement that the two big pharma companies would partner; however, the latest update outlined that Sanofi is leading clinical developments and expects a Phase I/II study to begin in September.
After this, the companies will proceed to a Phase III trial by the end of 2020, looking ahead to US regulatory approval in the first half of 2021.
Interest ramps up
The deal with the US government represents the second deal with a national government in two days for the partners.
Last week, Sanofi and GSK also revealed that a deal had been concluded with the UK government for the supply of up to 60 million doses of their potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Unlike the most recent announcement, no financial details were stated regarding the UK government’s reimbursement for the supply.
Further than this, both companies noted that they are in negotiation with the European Commission for supply to Europe, as well as with other countries around the world.