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Sanofi to make millions of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine doses

Sanofi agreed to produce millions of doses of BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine in an unusual collaboration to speed vaccination efforts.

The French drugmaker will give BioNTech access to a production facility in Frankfurt, which will start to deliver doses this summer, Sanofi said in a statement Wednesday. The deal will produce more than 125 million doses of the messenger RNA vaccine for the European Union.

Sanofi’s own effort to develop a Covid vaccine has stumbled, meaning it won’t be ready by summer as initially expected. The deal with BioNTech allows Europe to make up for some of the loss. The pact also raised hopes that more pharma giants would throw their manufacturing and distribution weight behind the few coronavirus shots that have proved effective.

“Sanofi’s move certainly suggests this is possible,” said Sam Fazeli, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, citing vaccines under development by Valneva SE and Novavax Inc. as products that could benefit from such industrial firepower.

Sanofi said the deal doesn’t mean it will stop working on developing a vaccine of its own. Another big drugmaker, Merck & Co., abandoned efforts this week after poor early trial data.

Supply as obstacle
The deal announced Wednesday marks the first time a drugmaker will work to help make a rival’s vaccine, according to Olivier Bogillot, who heads Sanofi’s French operations.

“We had a slight delay on one of our vaccine candidates and decided to use that time to mobilize our production capacities to help with the Pfizer one,” he said on RTL radio.

The agreement will speed the complex process of packaging and distributing a vaccine that needs to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures. Pfizer and BioNTech have been looking for ways to increase the supply of their injection, from expanding existing plants to adding suppliers and contract manufacturers.

Others are also looking into how to boost production, one of the biggest obstacles to mass vaccinations at the moment.

Lonza Group AG, the Swiss company that manufactures Moderna Inc.’s vaccine, said Wednesday it’s seeking ways to increase output and it’s willing to help other producers making treatments or shots.

Japan’s JCR Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, is preparing to produce 90 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in its home country, Nikkei reported.

Sanofi’s own candidate in development with GlaxoSmithKline Plc will enter another intermediate clinical trial in February, with the potential to reach the market in the fourth quarter, the company said. The experimental product was dealt a blow in December after a study showed it had failed to produce a strong enough response in older people, perhaps because of a formulation error. Sanofi also plans to start early clinical trials for a messenger RNA vaccine candidate it’s developing with Translate Bio Inc. in February or March. The stock showed little change in Paris trading. – Bloomberg Quint

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