18:35 GMT03 August 2020
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    The US government will provide drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi $2.1 billion for the production of COVID-19 vaccines for up to 50 million people, the companies announced Friday.

    “Sanofi and GSK today announce a collaborative effort with the US government to accelerate the development and manufacturing of a COVID-19 recombinant protein-based vaccine,” the companies said in a Friday news release. 

    More than half of the $2.1 billion will be used to develop the vaccine candidate and conduct clinical trials. The remainder will be used for “manufacturing scale-up and delivery of an initial 100 million doses of the vaccine.” According to the release, Sanofi will receive the majority of the government funding. 

    The latest collaboration is the largest grant yet under the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” an initiative focused on developing an accessible COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

    Sanofi and GSK’s drug is a so-called recombinant protein-based vaccine, which means that it involves using DNA to encode an antigen, toxin or other foreign substance, which induces an immune response in the vaccinated person.

    “The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccine division, said in the news release.

    “From the beginning of the pandemic, Sanofi has leveraged its deep scientific expertise and resources to help address this crisis, collaborating with the US Department of Health and Human Services to unlock a rapid path toward developing a pandemic vaccine and manufacturing at large scale.”

    Sanofi expects the first two phases of its vaccine study to start in September, and the third phase is expected to begin by the end of 2020. If the trials prove effective, the companies plan to request US regulatory approval for the vaccine in the first half of 2021.

    In May, French Junior Economy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said it would be “unacceptable” that the US may be the first nation to get access to a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sanofi, which is a French company.

    “For us, it would be unacceptable that there be privileged access for this or that country on a pretext that would be a financial pretext,” Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio at the time, Bloomberg News reported.

    Last week, American multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech announced that they had struck a $1.95 billion deal with the US federal government to produce 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently in phase three trials. The deal also allows the government to acquire up to 500 million additional doses after the initial order.

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