Gear change for Sanofi. Lagging behind its competitors, the pharmaceutical group has decided to abandon the development of its messenger RNA vaccine against Covid-19, currently in phase 1/2, and on which it had been working for nearly a year and a half. Another setback for the French flagship, which still has no vaccine against the virus on the market. The laboratory will now focus its efforts in the fight against the pandemic on its other vaccine – eagerly awaited -, developed with the British GSK, and adjuvanted recombinant protein, a more “traditional” technology that Sanofi already uses against seasonal influenza.
A strategic withdrawal. The laboratory believes that its messenger RNA vaccine would arrive too late on the market, while its rivals in the field are already well established. Indeed, the American Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech and the biotech Moderna should deliver, between them, more than 4 billion doses for the year 2021 alone, and much more in 2022. “If we started a phase 3 study today, we would not arrive until the end of 2022, or even the beginning of 2023. What would be the interest from a public health point of view to have another messenger RNA vaccine? when billions of doses of other messenger RNA vaccines will already be available? », underlines Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president of Sanofi Pasteur and head of the vaccines branch of the laboratory.
The French champion had yet announced, Tuesday, September 28, intermediate phase 1/2 positive results for his vaccine candidate, with “A presence of neutralizing antibodies in 91% to 100% of the study participants”, after two injections. ” Good news “, according to Thomas Triomphe, who prefers to see the test tube half full. Because, far from being lost, this research work has strengthened the group in its ambitions for messenger RNA technology. “This is our first clinical study on this technology. This allowed us to see that our plate–messenger RNA form was efficient, having repositories of other vaccines of the same type. These results confirm that we are in the race ”, observes Jean-François Toussaint, world head of research and development at Sanofi Pasteur.
“Meet the next pandemics”
The laboratory is thus preparing for the future. “The objective is to be at the rendezvous of the next pandemics and the next vaccinations”, explains Mr. Triomphe. For this, the pharmaceutical group has beefed up its arsenal in recent months. First with the launch, at the end of June, of a center entirely devoted to messenger RNA – located at the Marcy-l’Étoile (Rhône) sites, near Lyon, and Cambridge, in Massachusetts, in the United States. -Unis -, for which the company will devote an envelope of more than 400 million euros per year in research and development. Then with the purchase, this summer, for 3.2 billion dollars (2.7 billion euros) of the biotech Translate Bio, specialist in this technology.
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