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Coronavirus: GSK and Sanofi work on COVID-19 vaccine by 2021

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
Illustration picture shows the logo of GSK ahead of a personnel meeting of the GSK Vaccines and pharmaceutical company at the GSK GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals plant of the group, in Rixensart, Friday 07 February 2020. A reform plan is reportedly threatening 720 jobs. BELGA PHOTO HATIM KAGHAT (Photo by HATIM KAGHAT/Belga/Sipa USA)
GSK and Sanofi will collaborate on a coronavirus vaccine. (HATIM KAGHAT/Belga/Sipa USA)

Two of Europe’s leading pharmaceutical firms have announced they will work together in a bid to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 by next year.

British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and its French rival Sanofi (SAN.PA) announced the rare collaboration on Tuesday as global efforts intensify to tackle the pandemic.

The two companies said any vaccine depended on successful trials and regulator approval, and would not be ready until mid-2021 at the earliest.

The companies have signed a ‘letter of intent’ to enter a collaboration, and said each would bring different aspects of their innovative technology to the partnership.

Sanofi has already produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus, while GSK will contribute its ‘adjuvant’ technology. The latter makes higher production possible by reducing the amount of vaccine protein needed per dose.

READ MORE: AstraZeneca to start COVID-19 drug trial

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. 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.”

Emma Walmsley, his counterpart at GSK, added: “This collaboration brings two of the world’s largest vaccines companies together. By combining our science and our technologies, we believe we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.”

The companies plan to begin first-phase clinical trials in the second half of 2020. They said they would aim to make the vaccine available from the second half of 2021 if the trials were successful and approved by regulators.

GSK shares were trading 1.7% higher and Sanofi shares 2.1% higher on Tuesday.

It comes after AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Tuesday it would start a new clinical trial of Calquence, aimed at assessing it as a treatment for COVID-19.

The company said it hopes the drug will treat the exaggerated immune response associated with COVID-19 infections. Calquence is currently used to treat certain types of blood cancers.

AstraZeneca said “early clinical data” suggests Calquence “appears to reduce the severity of COVID-19-induced respiratory distress.”

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