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US backs Sanofi’s ‘fast-track’ coronavirus vaccine

Development will tap into earlier work on the SARS virus

Vaccine

Sanofi has said it will work with the US government on a vaccine for the new coronavirus COVID-19 that will tap into its earlier work on the SARS virus, and so could be developed quickly.

The French drugmaker’s Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division will part with the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – which is also working with other vaccine producers including Johnson & Johnson – on the project.

Sanofi’s prior work on SARS, another coronavirus that caused an epidemic in 2002-2003 and shares around 80% of its genes with COVID-19, means it can ‘fast-track’ a vaccine through development, although it could still be a year before it is ready for human testing.

The company says it plans to investigate whether a preclinical-stage SARS vaccine candidate could protect against COVID-19, whilst also exploring new candidates. That has already been shown to provide partial protection in animal studies.

Latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures put the total number of COVID-19 cases at 73,400 cases worldwide – mainly in China – with almost 1,900 deaths. That’s much bigger than the SARS outbreak, which resulted in around 8,000 infections and 800 deaths across two dozen countries, and had largely dissipated by 2004.

COVID-19 seems to be less virulent however, with a new Chinese study suggesting the mortality rate with the virus is around 2.3%, which is considerably lower than the 9% rate seen with SARS.

Sanofi’s vaccine candidate is based on a recombinant DNA platform that can produce “an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus,” according to the company.

Those sequences are then spliced into a baculovirus expression platform to allow large quantities of the antigens to be created for formulation onto a vaccine.

The technology platform is already used to make one of Sanofi’s influenza shots, which means manufacturing capacity is already in place, and it is also the subject of a prior agreement with BARDA to produce vaccines for pandemic flu outbreaks.

“Emerging global health threats like the 2019 novel coronavirus require a rapid response,” said BARDA director Rick Bright.

“By expanding our partnership with Sanofi Pasteur and leveraging a licensed recombinant vaccine platform, we hope to speed development of a vaccine candidate to protect against a new virus.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

19th February 2020

From: Research

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