Sanofi, Translate Bio jump on mRNA bandwagon to fight COVID-19

Here comes another mRNA vaccine against the novel coronavirus. In its second partnership in the COVID-19 space, Sanofi is expanding its infectious disease pact with Translate Bio to include work on a new vaccine for COVID-19.

The duo teamed up on mRNA vaccines in 2018, when Sanofi handed over $45 million upfront and promised $760 million more to use Translate Bio’s mRNA platform in up to five undisclosed infectious disease targets. Under the deal, Sanofi would bankroll R&D and hold on to the worldwide marketing rights for the vaccines, while Translate Bio would be on the hook for manufacturing clinical supplies.

Since then, Translate Bio has created multiple mRNA constructs and will use the platform to discover and develop “a number of” vaccine candidates against the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, the partners said in a statement.

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Sanofi and Translate Bio join Moderna Therapeutics, CureVac and partners Pfizer and BioNTech, which are all working on mRNA vaccines, too. Instead of delivering antigens through a weakened or inactivated form of a virus, mRNA vaccines give people's bodies the instructions for those antigens. The body then creates antigens that resemble the virus and mounts an immune response against them.

This is Sanofi’s second partnership in the COVID-19 vaccine field. In February, the French pharma joined forces with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a recombinant DNA vaccine based on research conducted by Protein Sciences, a flu vaccine biotech Sanofi acquired in 2017. Responding to the SARS outbreak of 2002 to 2004, Protein Sciences advanced a vaccine candidate to late preclinical development, Sanofi executives said on a conference call with reporters in February.

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“We are committed to leveraging different ways to address the COVID-19 public health crisis by testing treatments, as well as two vaccines using different platforms. We believe the more approaches we explore, the better our likelihood of success in achieving this goal,” David Loew, global head of vaccines at Sanofi, said in the statement.

“Having sufficient installed capacity will be key to satisfy the strong demand for vaccines we will probably see, and based on the experience we’ve had under the collaboration to date, we believe the Translate Bio mRNA platform could help us meet that need," he added.