French drugmaking giant Sanofi (SNY) - Get Report has agreed to produce millions of doses of Pfizer (PFE) - Get Report and BioNTech’s (BNTX) - Get Report coronavirus vaccine in an unusual production collaboration with BioNTech that it said will speed up vaccination efforts in Europe.
Sanofi on Wednesday said it will give BioNTech access to a production facility in Frankfurt, which will start to deliver doses this summer. The arrangement will produce more than 125 million doses of the messenger RNA vaccine for the European Union.
The agreement will help the EU recover from an unexpected shortage of vaccines resulting from production missteps by Sanofi that have lowered the number of expected available does for the region.
Specifically, the arrangement will help accelerate the complex process of packaging and distributing the vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage temperatures and in turn more intricate distribution logistics.
“Since we are running several months late on our main vaccine, we asked ourselves how we could make ourselves useful right now,” Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro.
“We had a slight delay on one of our vaccine candidates and decided to use that time to mobilize our production capacities to help with the Pfizer one,” Olivier Bogillot, who heads Sanofi’s French operations, said on RTL radio. It’s the first time a drugmaker will work to help make a rival’s vaccine, he said.
Sanofi has come under intense pressure to help produce approved vaccines, especially in France, where the company is seen as a national champion - and where its failure to rapidly produce a functioning vaccine has led to criticism of its domestic research and development policies.
Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) - Get Report are working on their own Covid-19 vaccine but have announced that its rollout would be delayed to later this year because trials to date haven’t produced a sufficient immune response among elderly participants.
Sanofi also plans to start early clinical trials for its own messenger RNA vaccine candidate in February or March.