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U.S. sinks $2.1 billion into another potential COVID-19 vaccine

French President Emmanuel Macron at Sanofi Pasteur plant
French President Emmanuel Macron listens to a researcher as he visits French drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine unit in June.
(Laurent Cipriani / Pool Photo)

Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced that they will supply 100 million doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. as governments around the world buy up supplies of potential vaccines in hopes something will work.

The U.S. will pay up to $2.1 billion “for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine,” the companies said in a statement. Sanofi will receive the bulk of the funds.

The U.S. government has a further option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed program.

“The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “Today’s investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people.”

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The new agreement comes a little more than a week after the U.S. signed a similar deal, worth $1.95 billion, with Pfizer for delivery in December of the first 100 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The prospective vaccine from Britain’s GSK and France’s Sanofi is based on the existing DNA-based technology that is used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. It is one of several vaccines in development.

The first wave of coronavirus vaccines might be like a flu shot, experts say, curbing symptoms in some patients but not protecting them from COVID-19.

“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” said Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president of Sanofi Pasteur.

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The companies said discussions were ongoing with the European Commission.


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