‘It’s like the tortoise and the hare’: A pandemic puts Sanofi’s $600M bet to the test
MERIDEN, CT — In a warehouse-turned-lab off Interstate 91 here, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and his team peer through plastic goggles at a screen showing row after row of luminous white orbs. The orbs sit against a fluorescent purple background, some puffing ghostly, chemical contrails. For now, they test the potency of a Sanofi flu vaccine: the wider the orb, the more powerful the prophylactic.
Soon, though, new vials will arrive from across the street carrying a new candidate: Sanofi’s attempt at a coronavirus vaccine. After tests here, it will go to New York for large-scale production and then — well, we’ll get to that. But now, on Thursday, the governor’s team has packed into a normally quiet lab, where site head Mireli Fino is explaining their Covid-19 response to an intrigued but questioning audience.
“We were able to really go fast,” she says.
“So someone told me that there was a company that already has a vaccine they’re testing,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz says, clutching the governor’s speech close to her paper lab coat. “It’s something N-I-O –”
“ — it’s Moderna,” offers Indresh Srivastava, director of the flu program here. “There’s two companies. Moderna, which uses mRNA technology, and Inovio, which uses DNA technology.“
Now Lamont leans in, apparently weighing the news that Moderna already has a clinical vaccine against the timeline Sanofi first gave: “Do they have a 6-month head start on you?” he asks. “Or is everybody … ?”
“Well the way I would put it is like the tortoise and the hare,” Clem Lewin, the AVP of R&D strategy and the most senior Sanofi employee on the floor. “We believe we’re a little slower at the start but we feel we’ll catch up.”
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