GSK and Sanofi plan on joint COVID-19 vaccine ready for testing this year

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Two of the world’s largest vaccine firms have teamed up to develop a coronavirus treatment that can be supplied to billions of people around the world. The Daily Telegraph reports that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi plan to create a drug that will be ready for testing during the second half of this year – and available to patients by the second half of 2021 if trials are a success.

The report says GSK is the biggest vaccine manufacturer worldwide based on revenues, ahead of Merck, Sanofi and Pfizer. Between them, the four giants account for 85% of all vaccine sales globally.

The vaccine is currently being funded by US authorities, but GSK and Sanofi have vowed to discuss support with other governments and global institutions to ensure any immunisation programme is affordable and all countries are given fair access.

Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, said: “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone. That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.”

The report says GSK will contribute its adjuvant technology to the collaboration, which it said will enable more vaccine doses to be produced.

And after giving the green signal for one vaccine to fight coronavirus, the Chinese government has approved clinical trials for two more experimental vaccines. “The approvals pave the way for early-stage human trials”, Wu Yuanbin, spokesperson for China‘s Ministry of Science and Technology is quoted in a WIO News report as saying.

Chinese authorities had earlier approved one vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech to go in for clinical trial. On Sunday, it had also approved a vaccine for trial from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In a study, researchers had concluded that lifting lockdowns without a valid vaccine could prove to be fatal. The potential for a second wave of COVID-19 infections could increase “exponentially” if measures are relaxed too quickly and governments become complacent, it said. The researchers said their findings were critical for countries in the early stages of a similar lockdown with UK, US and several other European countries in various stages of lockdown and registering high death rates.

While the race is underway worldwide to find the vaccine, Wu is quoted in the report as saying: “Vaccination of subjects during the first phase of clinical trials and the recruitment of volunteers for the second phase of clinical trials began on 9 April. It’s the world’s first novel coronavirus vaccine to initiate Phase II clinical studies.”

A scientist leading one of Britain’s most advanced teams has said, meanwhile, that a vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready by September, reports Bloomberg. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, is quoted as saying that she is “80% confident” the vaccine would work, and could be ready by September. Experts have warned the public that vaccines typically take years to develop, and one for the coronavirus could take between 12 to 18 months at best.

In the case of the Oxford team, however, “it’s not just a hunch, and as every week goes by we have more data to look at,” Gilbert said. The report says Gilbert’s team is one of dozens worldwide working on a vaccine and is the most advanced in Britain.

Manufacturing the millions of vaccine doses necessary could take months. Gilbert said she’s in discussions with the British government about funding, and starting production before the final results are in, allowing the public to access the vaccine immediately if it proves to work. She said success by the autumn was “just about possible if everything goes perfectly.”

Full report in The Daily Telegraph

Full WIO News report

Full Bloomberg report

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