Sanofi steps in to boost supplies of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID shot

Sanofi has said it is to begin manufacturing the COVID-19 shot from Pfizer and BioNTech in a week when supplies are in the spotlight.

The French pharma will use its production infrastructure to boost supplies of the vaccine and perform late-stage manufacturing to supply over 125 million doses to the EU.

In a statement Sanofi said that the production capacity will be at its Frankfurt plant.

The company provided few other details about the arrangement, but it makes sense for Sanofi, which late last year encountered a setback with the vaccine to develop in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.

The companies said in December they were having to rethink the antigen formulation of their vaccine after it failed to produce the desired immune response in people aged 50 years and older, although results were more favourable in younger age groups.

This is expected to delay availability of the vaccine until later this year.

Sanofi said its priority is to continue developing two COVID-19 vaccines, including the one developed with GSK.

They plan a phase 2 study in February with support from the US government agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), which test the improved formulation in all age groups.

If data are positive, a global Phase 3 study could start in the second quarter of 2021.

Positive results from this study would lead to regulatory submissions in the second half of 2021, with potential availability of doses in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on an mRNA vaccine, along similar lines to the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.

Preclinical data showed neutralising antibody levels “comparable to the upper range of those observed in infected humans,” the company said. A phase 1/2 study is expected to start this quarter.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot has given a lengthy interview with Italy’s la Repubblica detailing issues that led to this week’s row over vaccine supply between the UK and European Commission.

In the interview, Soriot said there had been issues with yield of vaccine at the company’s newly set up European vaccine operations.

These were being fixed but operations in Europe are lagging behind the UK as the European Commission signed a contract with AZ three months after the British government, Soriot said.

He said that after an expected approval from European regulators this week the company will begin shipping at least three million doses to Europe next week. Around 17 million doses are expected in February, he added.

Soriot said: “We are planning to deliver millions of doses to Europe, it is not small.”

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