Controversies, delays and shattering announcements: the past year under the sign of Covid-19 has been very eventful for Sanofi and its vaccine candidates. A look back at twelve hectic months for the laboratory.
The pharmaceutical group, which made a turnover of 36 billion euros last year, quickly positioned itself on a potential vaccine.
On February 18, 2020, he announced a collaboration with “Barda”, an American research and development agency, in order to develop a vaccine using proven recombinant DNA technology.
Sanofi announced two months later that it would use an adjuvant from the British GSK, another giant in the sector, to do this. Their potential vaccine should initially enter human clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if successful, be available in the second half of 2021, they predict then, with the goal of producing one billion doses per year.
In addition, Sanofi has been working since the end of March 2020 with Translate Bio, a biotech listed in the United States, for a vaccine based this time on messenger RNA technology, the same innovative technology as that of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Initial schedule: possible approval in the second half of 2021 for a production capacity of between 90 and 360 million doses per year.
Present, too present in the news? In a context where pharmaceutical companies have found themselves on the front of the stage as never before, Sanofi has experienced its share of controversy.
On May 13, 2020, Paul Hudson, its managing director, a Briton who took over the reins of the company a few months earlier, said a few words that went very badly in Pastor’s country.
The lab will serve the United States first if it finds a vaccine for the coronavirus responsible for the pandemic, since that country is supporting its research, he told the Bloomberg news agency, referring to the partnership with Barda .
These statements provoke controversy in France and strong reactions from the government. The next day, Paul Hudson, with what looks like a call of the foot to Europe, explains that Sanofi “needs to share the risks” to produce the doses of a possible vaccine even before its formal authorization.
Orders arrive quickly for vaccine producers and Sanofi is no exception. At the end of July, Sanofi and GSK say they will receive up to US $ 2.1 billion for vaccine development after being selected to deliver 100 million doses to Americans.
At the same time, the two laboratories promise 60 million doses in the United Kingdom.
With the European Union, it was not until September that an agreement was made. According to its terms, Sanofi and GSK were to supply up to 300 million doses, while Europe released funds to support the increase in Sanofi’s production capacities in Europe.
Finally, still in September, Sanofi and GSK also signed with Canada for the supply of up to 72 million doses of their adjuvanted vaccine.
But to provide these doses, it is still necessary to have the right formula. While at the end of 2020, Pfizer and Moderna have already started commercial production of their respective vaccines, the ax falls: on December 11, Sanofi and GSK announce less good results than expected from the first clinical trials. While they were initially aiming for an arrival on the market in the summer, they now expect the vaccine to be made available in the fourth quarter of 2021.
On Monday, Sanofi indicated the start of a new phase 2 study of its main vaccine candidate. As for the other vaccine under development, it should start phase 1-2 trials in March, for marketing no earlier than the end of the year.
The delay of Sanofi’s main Covid vaccine has sparked new controversy in France, with the laboratory’s unions pointing to the some 400 job cuts planned in the research.
Do you want to calm the storm or do your part? Sanofi will in any case produce up to 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this year, he announced at the end of January.
This is a first for a large laboratory, a sign that the pandemic is reshuffling the cards.
On Monday, the group also indicated that it would produce in France the anti-Covid vaccine from its American competitor Johnson & Johnson, from the third quarter this year, at a rate of around 12 million doses per month. An announcement welcomed by the Elysee.