The UK government has continued to hedge its bets on a coronavirus vaccine with the announcement of a £500mln deal with GlaxoSmithKline (LON:GSK) and French giant Sanofi.
It is to buy 60mln doses of the inoculation. The news follows an announcement last week that Britain is to acquire 90mln doses of a drug being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
UK needs ranges of alternatives, says business secretary
Business secretary Alok Sharma said it was important the UK secured early access to “a diverse range of promising vaccine candidates, like GSK and Sanofi, to increase our chances of finding one that works so we can protect the public and save lives”.
Work on the GSK-Sanofi product is being led by the French. The drug, which will move into the clinic in September and onto a phase III trial by the end of the year, could, if the data are supportive, be approved by the first half of 2021.
The pair said they are scaling up manufacturing of the antigen and adjuvant to produce up to one billion doses per year overall.
"We believe that this adjuvanted vaccine candidate has the potential to play a significant role in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the UK and around the world,” said Roger Connor, head of GSK’s vaccines division in a statement.
Flu vaccine repurposed
The vaccine is based on the recombinant protein-based technology used by Sanofi to produce a flu vaccine, as well as the GSK adjuvant technology, which helps amplify the immune response.
Sanofi created a political storm in May by seemingly promising to prioritise the US government.
But it changed its mind after then French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe responded by saying access for all was "non-negotiable".
GSK and Sanofi said Wednesday they were "committed to making the vaccine available globally".