A contract between the European Commission and pharmaceutical company Sanofi-GSK came into force on Friday, allowing for EU member states to purchase up to 300 million doses of the vaccine being developed.
The contract is the second of its kind, as the Commission signed a contract with AstraZeneca late last month for 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with an option for further 100 million doses, to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis.
In exchange for the right to the dosees, the European Commission will fund part of the initial costs faced by the companies, while the doses will be purchased by EU countries.
Sanofi and GSK have entered into a similar $2.1 billion deal with the United States for 100 million doses of the vaccine, while allowing the US government the right to purchase an additional 500 million doses. The companies have also reached an agreement with the United Kingdom for 60 million doses.
Commenting on the Commission’s deal with Sanofi-GSK, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said that “with several countries in Europe experiencing new outbreaks after the summer period, a safe and effective vaccine is more instrumental than ever to overcome this pandemic and its devastating effects on our economies and societies.”
“This second agreement is yet another milestone in our EU Vaccine Strategy. Today we are expanding our possibilities to ensure that EU citizens and citizens around the world can gradually resume daily life and feel safe again,” she added.
On her part, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “agreements with other companies will be concluded soon and build a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies, increasing our chances to find an effective remedy against the virus.”
According to the Commission, Sanofi and GSK are developing a recombinant vaccine for COVID-19, using innovative technology from both companies. Sanofi will contribute its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which is based on recombinant DNA technology. GSK will contribute its adjuvant technology, of particular importance in a pandemic situation since it may reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore helping to protect more people. The combination of a protein-based antigen together with an adjuvant is well-established and used in a number of vaccines available today to enhance the immune response. It can also improve the likelihood of delivering an effective vaccine that can be manufactured at scale.
The companies started a Phase 1/ 2 study in September, followed by a Phase 3 study by the end of 2020. If successful, and subject to regulatory considerations, the companies aim to have the vaccine available by the second half of 2021, the Commission press release said Friday.