Sanofi and GSK said they had reached an agreement with Britain to supply it with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, and that discussions with other governments were ongoing.
No vaccine has yet been approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 659,000 people and triggered economic havoc worldwide.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Sanofi and GSK, which had first teamed up in April, confirmed in a statement that regulatory approval for their vaccine could be achieved by the first half of 2021 if clinical data was to be positive.
The first clinical trials are expected in September.
The vaccine will be developed by combining Sanofi's S-protein COVID-19 antigen and GSK's pandemic adjuvant technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Adjuvants are efficacy boosters that play a vital role in many vaccines. An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, and has been shown to create a stronger and longer lasting immunity against infections than a vaccine alone.
Sanofi and GSK said other discussions with the European Union, Italy and France to supply their vaccine were ongoing.
Sanofi and GSK are hoping to clinch a deal soon to provide 300 million doses to the European Union.