Sanofi to invest €400m annually in new mRNA vaccine unit

29 Jun 2021

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A new ‘centre of excellence’ for mRNA research and development will bring together more than 400 Sanofi employees across the US and France.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has announced plans to address a range of diseases by escalating R&D for mRNA vaccines.

It plans to invest an annual €400m into a ‘centre of excellence’ for mRNA development and have a minimum of six clinical vaccine candidates ready by 2025.

Vaccines using mRNA technology were developed by Moderna and Pfizer to tackle Covid-19. But Sanofi said its mRNA vaccine R&D will go beyond the pandemic, focusing on routine use for such vaccines against diseases with a high unmet need.

The initiative will bring together more than 400 employees based at existing sites in Massachusetts in the US and Lyon in France.

These teams will build on the mRNA portfolio that Sanofi has developed through a collaboration with Translate Bio.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, mRNA technologies demonstrated potential to deliver new vaccines faster than ever before,” said Jean-Francois Toussaint, global head of research and development at Sanofi Pasteur, Sanofi’s vaccine global business unit.

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“However, key areas of innovation such as thermostability and tolerability improvements will be critical to unlock the applications of mRNA in routine vaccination against a broader set of infectious diseases and across all ages.”

mRNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, work by teaching the cells in our body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response.

Advantages of mRNA vaccines include their high potency, capacity for rapid development and potential for low-cost manufacture.

“This massive new investment clearly puts us in the race to develop next-generation vaccines where mRNA technologies can have greatest impact,” said Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur.

“While mRNA won’t be the solution for every infectious disease, its translation into routine prevention could have immense impact for many unmet public health needs.”

Sanofi is working on two Covid-19 vaccine candidates – one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and the other with Translate Bio.

While not an mRNA vaccine, the work with GlaxoSmithKline has recently entered phase-three trials. If these trials are successful, Sanofi hopes to roll the vaccine out by the end of 2021.

Sam Cox is a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news

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