Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Collaborate to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine


GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi have prioritized public health over competition in their agreement, announced today.


Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced its plan to join forces to create a vaccine to combat the virus that causes the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to a press release.1

The announcement said that the pharmaceutical giants expect to shorten the vaccine process considerably. Although it often takes nearly a decade to introduce a new vaccine to the market,2 the companies expect to start their clinical trials in the second half of 2020 and, if effective, the vaccine could be available in late 2021.1

Though Sanofi and GSK are established competitors, the companies decided, considering the “extraordinary and financial challenge of the pandemic” that it is imperative to prioritize global access to effective COVID-19 treatment.1 The companies entered into a Material Transfer Agreement in order to begin an immediate collaboration, which is expected to be finalized over the next few weeks.

The pharmaceutical corporations have defined their intended contributions to the process; Sanofi plans to offer its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. This technology has produced an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus, and the DNA sequence encoding this antigen has been combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, which is part of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant influenza product in the United States.1

GSK will contribute its proven pandemic adjuvant technology, as the use of an adjuvant can be of particular importance in a pandemic situation through allowing a larger volume of vaccine doses to be produced, effectively protecting more people from the virus.1

The corporations are hopeful that, because the combination of a protein-based antigen with an adjuvant is well-established and used in a number of currently available vaccines, the vaccine could combat COVID-19.1

Both pharmaceutical companies released statements identifying that collaboration over competition is crucial during the current crisis.

Paul Hudson, chief executive officer of Sanofi, said, “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone. That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.”1

“This collaboration brings two of the world’s largest vaccines companies together,” Emma Walmsley, chief executive officer of GSK, said. “By combining our science and our technologies, we believe we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.”1


1. Sanofi and GSK to join forces in unprecedented vaccine collaboration to fight COVID-19 [news release]. GSK website. Published April 14, 2020. Accessed April 14, 2020.
2. Palca J. Coronavirus Vaccine? Two Pharmaceutical Giants Collaborating To Develop One. NPR. Published April 14, 2020. Accessed April 14, 2020.

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