The annual investment of €400m (US$473m) will focus on the establishment of a vaccine mRNA Center of Excellence. The center will host approximately 400 employees and will contain teams across R&D, digital, and chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC).
The center will be located across two different sites, Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US, and Marcy, in France. Employees brought in to work at the sites will be staff members from within the company, with the addition of external new hires, “to meet needs in specific areas of expertise,” a spokesperson told BioPharma-Reporter.
According to the spokesperson, €400m will be invested annually because it is regarded as a “long-term play”, with the ambition being to establish six clinical targets by 2025.
The company has already made headway in the mRNA field, after establishing and extending its collaboration with Translate Bio, which had been formed to address ‘current and future infectious diseases.’
Only the week prior to Sanofi’s investment decision, the partners were able to initiate Phase I clinical trials for their mRNA seasonal flu vaccine that had previously been announced as part of their collaboration.
Looking beyond the pandemic
The catalyst for Sanofi’s renewed focus on mRNA vaccines, according to Jean-Francois Toussaint, global head of R&D at Sanofi, had been the success of mRNA vaccines during COVID-19 pandemic, where they had “demonstrated potential to deliver new vaccines faster than ever before.”
Technically, Sanofi has already played a role in the success of the mRNA vaccines and their distribution to patients during the pandemic. The company partnered with both Moderna and BioNTech to support the manufacture of mRNA vaccines from Europe.
However, Toussaint added that there were still addressable weaknesses at the heart of such technology, such as ‘thermostability’ and ‘tolerability’.
When asked about this, the spokesperson stated: “Part of our key challenges will be moving pandemic mRNA technologies into routine use by improving their thermostability and relatively high reactogenicity, and this is an area where Sanofi has unique experience in vaccines to lead the field in the future.”
In terms of what targets Sanofi would be aiming for with its six clinical candidates, few details were mentioned, except that the company would aim its mRNA vaccines against a ‘broader set of infectious diseases’.