London: Pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on Tuesday joined hands to speed up and develop an adjuvanted vaccine for COVID-19 disease.
The candidate vaccine is expected to enter clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful, would be available in the second half of 2021, the two companies said in a statement.
Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology while GSK will contribute its proven pandemic adjuvant technology.
“As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone.” says Paul Hudson, Chief Executive Officer, Sanofi.
The pandemic has infected close to 20 lakh people globally, killing over 1.21 lakh, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus,” Hudson added.
Nearly 44 COVID-19 vaccines are currently under various stages of development and scientists say that it will take 12-18 months before the world sees a successful one.
The Sanofi technology has produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus, and the DNA sequence encoding this antigen has been combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, the basis of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant influenza product in the US.
GSK’s adjuvant can be of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore contributing to protecting more people.
“This collaboration brings together two of the world’s largest vaccines companies.” says Emma Walmsley, Chief Executive Officer, GSK.
“By combining our scientific expertise, technologies and capabilities, we believe that we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from Covid-19,” Walmsley added.
The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well-established and used in a number of vaccines available today.
An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response and has been shown to create a stronger and longer-lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone.
It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at large scale.
As previously announced by Sanofi, development of the recombinant-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being supported through funding and a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The companies have set up a Joint Task Force, co-chaired by David Loew, Global Head of Vaccines, Sanofi and Roger Connor, President Vaccines, GSK that will seek to mobilize resources from both companies to look for every opportunity to accelerate the development of the candidate vaccine.