Sanofi, Glaxo sign up for vaccine R&D projects under new Gates initiative

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Sanofi ($SNY) have both signed on to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on new vaccine technologies under a newly devised Vaccine Discovery Partnership.

In its joint venture, Glaxo will join the foundation in fronting $1.8 million for work on the thermostability of vaccines. GSK will set out to make adjuvants--used to boost the effectiveness of vaccines--more heat stable. The project fits within the broad scope of work attempting to break the "cold chain" supply process that requires vaccines to remain refrigerated--a big challenge for developing countries.

Sanofi Pasteur, meanwhile, will work with the Gates Foundation on new platforms and methods for vaccine R&D, an effort aimed at speeding up the development of new vaccines for emerging countries.

"The MOU with the Gates Foundation facilitates our working together to de-risk novel concepts, technologies, platforms, and approaches of mutual interest," said John Shiver, the senior VP of R&D for Sanofi Pasteur. "This program provides a mechanism to pursue R&D of new candidate vaccines for global health in the preclinical and clinical phases up to and including Phase Ia clinical trials."

Both of these projects fall under the umbrella of the newly formed Vaccine Discovery Partnership, with details emerging from Gates' Grand Challenges Meeting in Rio.

Sanofi and GSK, among others, have shown their eagerness to participate in developing drugs and vaccines for poor countries, a long-neglected field that has attracted increased awareness and funding in recent years. In part, the amped-up R&D work has a lot to do with the Gates Foundation's efforts, which has helped organize global R&D efforts on vaccines. But there are still plenty of critics willing to note that the effort leaves a lot to be desired.

- here's the GSK release
- see the Sanofi release