Home / Companies / News /  Sanofi bets on mRNA vaccines after covid-19 pandemic shows worth

Sanofi SA said it plans to build a messenger RNA vaccine business, the latest big drugmaker to embrace the technology.

The French pharmaceutical company, one of the world’s biggest vaccine makers by sales, said Tuesday that it would invest €400 million, equivalent to $477 million, a year in mRNA vaccine research, starting immediately.

The drugmaker said it expects the investment to produce at least six new candidate vaccines in human testing by 2025.

The move is a sign of how mRNA technology, which hadn’t produced an approved product before the pandemic but is now a leading source of Covid-19 shots, is reshaping the vaccine industry.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, mRNA technologies demonstrated potential to deliver new vaccines faster than ever before," Jean-François Toussaint, R&D chief at Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccine division, said in a statement

Big pharmaceutical companies Pfizer Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC have also set their sights on building out mRNA vaccine businesses.

Though mRNA vaccines have proved their worth in the pandemic, they haven’t been shown to work against other diseases. Manufacturing them requires different equipment and skills than making traditional shots.

MRNA vaccines are named after the genetic molecular couriers they use to spur an immune response.

For years, they were championed by small companies such as Moderna Inc. and BioNTech SE. Some experimental vaccines based on the technology targeted cancer.

Some researchers also saw the potential of mRNA to protect against infectious diseases, especially fast-moving outbreaks, because the vaccines can be quicker to develop than their traditional counterparts.

Vaccine makers can quickly develop an mRNA vaccine once they know the genetic sequence of a target virus.

The unproven technology has been validated during the pandemic. Moderna developed its own Covid-19 vaccine, while BioNTech partnered on one with Pfizer, beating out established players such as Sanofi.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots were the first two Covid-19 vaccines to be authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Now big vaccine makers, which don’t want to be left behind, are trying to incorporate the technology into their businesses. Pfizer has said it is developing mRNA vaccines for other diseases.

Glaxo said last week that it had dedicated more than 200 scientists to researching mRNA vaccines and was aiming to have six candidate vaccines in human testing within the next four years.

It has partnered with Germany’s CureVac NV to develop next-generation Covid-19 vaccines that target new variants.

Sanofi, which made €6 billion in vaccine sales last year, said it would establish a research center with about 400 researchers dedicated to mRNA vaccines.

The company didn’t specify which diseases it would pursue but had previously disclosed work on an mRNA vaccine candidate targeting flu, in partnership with mRNA specialist Translate Bio Inc. Glaxo is also working on an mRNA flu vaccine.

Sanofi tiptoed into mRNA vaccine research in 2018 when it entered a collaboration with Translate Bio. Sanofi expanded that collaboration last year to include work on a shot against Covid-19, which is in clinical trials.

Sanofi has said it would help Moderna make its vaccine and is developing a Covid-19 vaccine with GlaxoSmithKline that isn’t based on mRNA technology.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text

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