- Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, which in April joined forces to develop a coronavirus vaccine, will get up to $2.1 billion from the U.S. government to help test, manufacture, and, potentially deliver their experimental shot.
- The deal, announced by the companies Friday, eclipses in value several recent contracts signed by the Trump administration and vaccine makers, including a nearly $2 billion supply deal with Pfizer reached just over a week ago.
- Sanofi and GSK have moved more slowly than some of their peers in readying a coronavirus vaccine for human testing. The companies expect to begin a Phase 1/2 study of their candidate in September, followed quickly by a Phase 3 trial before the end of the year. Moderna, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, by comparison, have already advanced into late-stage testing.
Under the banner of "Operation Warp Speed," an ambitious Manhattan Project-like vaccine program, the U.S. has aggressively funded development of seven leading candidates.
Taken together, the Warp Speed contracts have injected roughly $8 billion into testing and production of coronavirus vaccines and, in the process, secured for the U.S. some 600 million doses in the future.
The funding is one of several factors contributing to the extraordinary speed at which drugmakers have moved, enabling large-scale manufacturing to begin before testing is complete.
Even Sanofi and GSK, which trail the vaccine frontrunners by months, are advancing their candidate at what would historically be an unprecedented pace.
Warp Speed funding for coronavirus vaccine candidates to date
|Company||Vaccine type||Funding||Use of funds||Doses secured|
|Sanofi, GSK||Protein-based||$2.13 billion||Testing, manufacturing and supply||100 million|
|Pfizer, BioNTech||mRNA||$1.95 billion||Supply||100 million|
|Novavax||Protein-based||$1.6 billion||Testing, manufacturing and supply||100 million|
|AstraZeneca||Viral vector||$1.2 billion||Testing, manufacturing and supply||300 million|
|Moderna||mRNA||$955 million||Testing and manufacturing||N/A|
|J&J||Viral vector||$456 million||Testing and manufacturing||N/A|
|Merck & Co.||Viral vector||$38 million (via IAVI)||Testing||N/A|
|$8.33 billion||600 million|
SOURCE: Companies, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
The majority of the $2.1 billion promised to Sanofi and GSK will support clinical development of the shot, which is built from the companies' well-established vaccine technologies. The remainder will be used to produce 100 million doses for delivery to the U.S.
Like the supply contract the U.S. signed with Pfizer and partner BioNTech, the Sanofi and GSK deal includes an option for another 500 million doses, should the U.S. need it.
While Sanofi and GSK's vaccine would likely become available well after others, it contains viral proteins, a more well-known method of vaccination than the cutting-edge approaches being advanced by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. By working with multiple drugmakers using different technologies, the U.S. government appears to be hedging its bets that one vaccine type might be unsuccessful.
Sanofi is responsible for the vaccine itself, while GSK is contributing an immune-boosting compound known as an adjuvant.
GSK, for its part, has personal ties to Operation Warp Speed, which is led by the company's former head of vaccines, Moncef Slaoui. While Slaoui has sold shares he held in Moderna, another vaccine maker involved with Warp Speed, he has retained ownership of reportedly $10 million worth of GSK stock from his time at the company.
In addition to their new agreement with the U.S., Sanofi and GSK are also negotiating with the European Commission, and this week signed a deal with the U.K. government to supply 60 million doses.
Sanofi, which is based in France, found itself embroiled in a controversy earlier this year, when CEO Paul Hudson told Bloomberg the U.S. would get vaccine supplies first. The drugmaker quickly clarified Hudson's remarks, saying its supply would be available to the world, but the incident illustrated the geopolitical stakes surrounding the vaccine race.
In their statement on the Warp Speed deal, Sanofi and GSK noted the French government's involvement in the EC discussions.
The companies believe they can eventually scale up vaccine manufacturing to supply as many as one billion doses a year worldwide.
"In the end, we'll be one of the few companies that can deliver the number of doses, and try and get to places globally that others can't because of their cold chain challenges," Hudson said on a conference call this week, referring to the temperature at which vaccines are shipped.