Sanofi inks 3rd COVID-19 vaccine production pact, this time helping Moderna with fill and finish work

Moderna, with one of the leading COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, is working nonstop to scale up production. It's now tapped another manufacturing partner—this time the pharma giant Sanofi—to help with fill and finish duties.

Sanofi will perform fill and finish services from its site in Ridgefield, N.J. beginning in September, helping to produce up to 200 million doses. It's Sanofi's third COVID-19 vaccine production pact after its own GlaxoSmithKline-partnered candidate suffered a midstage setback last year. The drugmaker is also helping produce the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson shots.

In unveiling the deal, Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson credited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden administration for their efforts to “facilitate this new partnership." Moderna also cited the government's role in the talks.

This isn’t the first time Sanofi has lent its services to a COVID-19 vaccine maker. A Sanofi plant in Frankfurt, Germany, will manufacture 125 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be supplied to the European Union. Another Sanofi site, this one in France, will produce 12 million doses per month of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Sanofi now says it's the only company in the world producing COVID-19 vaccines for three different companies.

“We are one of the few pharmaceutical companies to leverage many industrial partnerships to improve global supply and access to COVID-19 vaccines, while in parallel, also continuing to develop our two COVID-19 vaccine programs,” Hudson said in the announcement.

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Along with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi is pursuing development of a recombinant protein-COVID-19 vaccine with hopes of regulatory authorization by the end of the year. Sanofi also is partnered with Translate Bio on an mRNA vaccine candidate.

For Moderna, the news comes after the company said it would need to cut deliveries to "a number of countries" including the U.K. and Canada thanks to production issues. Moderna is still hitting its supply targets to the U.S., which is set to receive 300 million vaccine doses from the company by the end of July.

Meanwhile, Moderna was also said to consider a production partnership with Nexus Pharmaceuticals earlier this month. The Illinois company has a new injectable drugs manufacturing site in the Village of Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, which could produce 30 million doses per month, a source told Reuters.

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The U.S. government was said to be involved in those talks and has played a similar role in helping COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson secure manufacturing capacity. Merck, for example, received $268 million to ready plants in Durham, N.C. and West Point, Pennsylvania, for production of the J&J shot. 

News of the Moderna-Sanofi deal comes as the U.K. is moving to secure more vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech. According to the Sunday Times, the companies will supply an additional 40 million doses to Britain this year. It is one of the countries, along with Canada, that Moderna warned of a supply shortfall.