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Sanofi adds to COVID-19 pipeline with Translate deal

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A partnership with Translate Bio to develop an mRNA-based vaccine is one of multiple shots on goal Sanofi is preparing against COVID-19.

The collaboration is part of a 2018 deal in which Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY) is using the mRNA platform from Translate Bio Inc. (NASDAQ:TBIO) to develop vaccines for up to five infectious diseases.

Translate Bio received $45 million up front and is eligible for $760 million in milestones under the initial deal, and the biotech won’t receive additional funds through the COVID-19 vaccine partnership (see “Sanofi, Translate in mRNA Vaccines Deal”).

Translate said it has begun building multiple mRNA constructs and will use its platform to design and manufacture a number of vaccine candidates; Sanofi will be responsible for further development.

Translate is working with a CMO to increase its manufacturing capacity to two 250-gram batches per month from 100 gram single-batch production.

The deal marks Sanofi's second COVID-19 vaccine partnership. In February, the French pharma partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a protein-based vaccine.

Sanofi is developing a virus bank using its recombinant DNA vaccine platform; it hopes to begin preclinical testing of a vaccine candidate within five months.

“We believe the more approaches we explore, the better likelihood of success in achieving this goal,” David Loew said in a statement about Sanofi’s work to address the pandemic. He is Sanofi's global head of vaccines.

Sanofi and partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:REGN) are also evaluating IL-6 inhibitor Kevzara sarilumab in an adaptive Phase II/III study to treat COVID-19 patients with severe disease (see "Slotting Anti-inflammatories Into COVID-19 Treatment").

Furthermore, the pharma is part of a consortium co-chaired by Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) CEO Vas Narasimhan and Bill Gates aimed at speeding development, scaled-up manufacturing and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapies (see "Pharmas to Share Assets in COVID-19 Consortium").

Separately, the University of Oxford said it has started enrolling healthy volunteers, ages 18-55, in its COVID-19 vaccine trial.

The university plans to enroll up to 510 people to receive its ChAdOx1 vaccine in the coming weeks. The vaccine comprises an adenovirus encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that has been modified so the adenovirus cannot reproduce.

The university signed a contract in February with Italian CMO Advent Srl to produce the first batch of the vaccine.

Further analysis of the coronavirus crisis can be found at https://www.biocentury.com/coronavirus.

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