Coronavirus outbreak: Pharmaceutical company Sanofi to work on coronavirus vaccine

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on February 19, 2020

It will help produce large quantities of the coronavirus antigen that will stimulate a person’s immune system

Global pharmaceutical company Sanofi on announced a partnership with US authorities to work on a vaccine for novel coronavirus dubbed as COVID-19 based on its previous research on SARS.

“Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines global business unit of Sanofi, will leverage previous development work for a SARS vaccine which may unlock a fast path forward for developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Sanofi will collaborate with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, expanding the company’s long-standing partnership with BARDA,” the company said in an official statement.

The French pharmaceutical company will develop a vaccine candidate to counter the recent coronavirus outbreak using its licensed recombinant DNA platform which enables researchers to produce an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus.

It will help researchers produce large quantities of the coronavirus antigen that will stimulate a person’s immune system to protect them against the virus.

“In non-clinical studies, the SARS vaccine candidate was immunogenic and afforded partial protection as assessed in animal challenge models. This development work by Protein Sciences (acquired by Sanofi in 2017) provides a head start in expediting a COVID-19 vaccine,” the company said.

“Sanofi’s platform also has the potential to manufacture large quantities of the vaccine candidate,” it further said.

Sanofi’s announcement follows similar initiatives by big pharma companies that have tied up with the US for research on an antidote for the virus including Regeneron and Johnson & Johnson.

Merck & Co, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi have previously had success in countering the Ebola epidemic. The trials had resulted in the world's first authorized vaccine against the pathogen according to media reports.

The novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-2019) however is closer to the influenza virus rather than SARS as per Peter Piot, a global expert on viruses and co-discoverer of the Ebola virus based on infection and mortality rate according to previous reports. The current mortality rate from the COVID-2019 is around 1 per cent as compared to the 10 per cent mortality rate of the SARS outbreak. Piot had further said that with the development time of vaccine and drugs being longer, the best bet at present to curb the outbreak is ‘precautions, containment and quarantine,’ as per the report.

According to the National Health Commission (NHC) of China’s latest report, the death toll from the virus has surpassed 2000 in China alone with over 11000 critical cases. Over 74000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported so far as per media reports.

Published on February 19, 2020

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