- Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine unit of the French pharma, will pay $45 million upfront to enter a three-year collaboration deal with Translate Bio that aims to develop mRNA vaccines for as many as five infectious diseases.
- Under the agreement announced Monday, Translate Bio stands to receive up to $805 million in potential milestone payments as well as option exercise fees from Sanofi.
- "We believe mRNA technology has significant potential for rapid and versatile manufacturing, reduced industrialization costs for multiple vaccines, and the improved breadth of immune response for infectious disease vaccines," said John Shiver, head of R&D at Sanofi Pasteur, in a June 11 statement.
Vaccines that utilize messenger RNA, or mRNA, to build the body's defenses against disease have attracted interest from a number of pharmas, including AstraZeneca, Merck & Co., Eli Lilly and now Sanofi.
Unlike many traditional medicines, mRNA-based therapeutics aim to deliver the nucleotide sequences that serve as instructions for the body's cells. An mRNA vaccine, in theory, could encode for a protein that helps protect the body against infection by a pathogen.
The technology has implications across therapeutic areas, including in oncology. Sanofi, though, appears most interested in infectious disease. By partnering with Translate Bio, the French drugmaker will gain exclusive rights for vaccines developed under the deal targeting up to five disease-causing pathogens.
Sanofi Pasteur will pay for all costs during the initial three-year research term, while Translate Bio remains responsible for clinical manufacture.
Translate Bio's work in mRNA is relatively new. Previously known as RaNA Therapeutics, the biotech acquired its mRNA technology platform from Shire in January 2017, bringing on a number of the Irish drugmaker's employees as well as two therapeutic candidates. One, for cystic fibrosis, is now in Phase 1/2 testing.
The company faces some big-name competition in the mRNA space, including biotech's highest-flying unicorn, Moderna Therapeutics, and Germany-based CureVac.
Translate Bio's deal with Sanofi is its first announced pharma partnership since the acquisition of its mRNA technology from Shire.