French coronavirus drugmaker Sanofi pushes for COVID-19 vaccine approval

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French drugmaker Sanofi expects to win approval for a COVID-19 vaccine in the first half of next year as it strengthens a pact with Translate Bio Inc. to develop other shots in a deal that could be valued at as much as $2.3 billion.

The experimental coronavirus vaccine that Sanofi is developing with GlaxoSmithKline Plc was previously targeting approval in the second half of 2021.


Sanofi’s program with Glaxo is one of dozens sprinting to deliver a vaccine to help end the pandemic. Others like the university of Oxford, working with AstraZeneca Plc, Moderna Inc. and CanSino Biologics Inc. have already started testing their experimental shots in humans, placing them ahead of the pack.

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Sanofi and Glaxo plan to start a study compressing the early and middle stages of clinical tests in September.

The Paris-based pharma giant has a separate coronavirus vaccine candidate under development with Translate Bio, which uses so-called messenger RNA technology to prompt the body to make a key protein from the virus, sparking an immune response.

Sanofi will pay $425 million upfront, partly by acquiring Translate Bio shares at a premium of almost 60 percent, the companies said. The French drugmaker agreed to pay as much as $1.9 billion upon meeting various goals, plus royalties.

Translate Bio shares almost doubled in US premarket trading, to as high as $31.16. Sanofi was little changed in Paris trading.

Translate Bio and Sanofi formed an alliance and license agreement in 2018 to develop mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases. The companies are studying several vaccine candidates for COVID-19, aiming to start a clinical trial in the fourth quarter of this year.

Sanofi will get worldwide rights for infectious disease vaccines developed in the pact. The companies are also working on shots for influenza and other pathogens.

The upfront payment consists of $300 million in cash and the purchase of $125 million worth of shares at a price of $25.59 each. That’s 58 percent higher than Monday’s closing price.

About $360 million of the milestone payments are anticipated over the next several years, with the bulk available after that. Translate Bio is based in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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