It's official: Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have inked a deal to supply 60 million doses or more of their coronavirus vaccine candidate to the U.K., with the deal subject to final contract, Sanofi said in a release.
The companies didn't disclose the financial terms of their deal, but the announcement follows reports that they were nearing a £500 million ($625 million) vaccine deal with the country. The previously floated pact also focused on 60 million doses of the partners' recombinant protein-based hopeful.
Sanofi and GSK may be lagging their rivals in the vaccine race, but the partners never planned to be a frontrunner, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said during this week's earnings call. Unlike other candidates that leverage novel vaccine platforms like messenger RNA (mRNA), Sanofi and GSK are tapping the same recombinant DNA technology used in the French drugmaker's seasonal flu vaccine, Flublok—and using GSK's proven vaccine-boosting adjuvant, AS03.
That tried-and-tested vaccine platform might have a better shot at proving itself—and might be easier to turn out at scale, Hudson figures. And the partners have distribution channels in place all around the world, too.
"We have even more confidence that perhaps our durability or even our efficacy will give something that is pretty unique in this space," Hudson said during the call. "[I]n the end, we'll be one of the only companies that can deliver the number of doses and try to get to places globally that others can't because of their cold chain challenges and other things."
Currently, the partners aim to push their vaccine candidate into phase 1/2 by September, with a late-stage study planned to start by year's end. If the shot wins out in the clinic, Sanofi and GSK could score regulatory approval as early as the first half of 2021, the partners said. Meanwhile, the companies are scaling up manufacturing ability toward the goal of deploying upwards of 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines per year.
That more cautious approach could pay off in the end, U.K. officials think.
“Through this agreement with GSK and Sanofi, the Vaccine Taskforce can add another type of vaccine to the three different types of vaccine we have already secured," said Kate Bingham, chair of the U.K. government’s Vaccines Taskforce. "This diversity of vaccine types is important because we do not yet know which, if any, of the different types of vaccine will prove to generate a safe and protective response to COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, the U.K. has picked up supply contracts from a number of other vaccine giants, too. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford nabbed £65.5 million ($79 million) in funding from the British government to churn out 100 million U.K. vaccine doses before 2020's close, with 30 million of those shots deployed by September.
And on the heels of its AstraZeneca deal, the U.K. doubled down on supply agreements with Pfizer and its German mRNA partner BioNTech, as well as niche vaccine maker Valneva. Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to distribute 30 million doses to the U.K. over the next two years, and Valneva will provide up to 100 million British doses of its shot, developed with the same inactivated whole virus platform used in the company's approved Japanese encephalitis shot.
In the meantime, Sanofi is hedging its bets in the fight against COVID-19. Beyond its GSK-partnered vaccine candidate, the French drugmaker has also embarked on development of a second, mRNA-based vaccine candidate with Translate Bio.