Sanofi turns to an upstart in the mRNA field in latest attempt to quickly squelch a global pandemic
You can add one more messenger RNA program in the works for Covid-19 — and pharma giant Sanofi is partnering on it, adding to its more traditional vaccine approach headed slowly but steadily to the clinic.
Sanofi $SNY chose Translate Bio’s $TBIO mRNA platform for the alliance, hitching a ride with another biotech looking to dispatch nucleotide sequences encoded for antigens, or viral proteins, that can kick up an immune response. New sequencing tech has given these platforms a big leg up over older — and much slower — platforms that rely on eggs and cell cultures to reliably discover and deliver the viral proteins needed to safely spur immune responses to prep them to repel a specific invader.
Sanofi Pasteur, their big subsidiary engaged in this new effort, knows all about how the old platform works and now hopes to use those insights to speed the Translate Bio program along. In a recent interview with Endpoints News’ Jason Mast, they described the race to a new vaccine as something of a tortoise and hare situation.
Now they want one of each.
“We believe the more approaches we explore, the better our likelihood of success in achieving this goal,” said David Loew, global head of vaccines at Sanofi.
According to an SEC filing, Translate isn’t getting an upfront for the deal and they plan to work out a royalty agreement later.
Translate and Sanofi — which initially allied on 5 infectious disease programs 2 years ago — are also already planning to build up new manufacturing capacity through a contract manufacturing organization. Translate is helmed by CEO Ron Renaud, who was recently hit by a partial hold for one of their R&D programs.
The mRNA field’s Covid-19 efforts are led by Moderna, which the NIH turned to in an effort to see if they could develop and field a new vaccine in record time. BioNTech and CureVac are also at work on their own programs.
Interestingly, Moderna had built up a full pipeline of mRNA therapies — instructing cells to make a drug — before shifting the spotlight squarely on vaccines. Their lead effort was centered on CMV, which has since been temporarily eclipsed by a 24/7 plan to combat coronavirus as new cases and deaths swiftly mount around the globe.
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