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Translate Bio Stock Jumps as Sanofi to Buy U.S. Partner for $3.2 Billion

Translate Bio stock surges after Sanofi agrees to buy its messenger-RNA development partner for $3.2 billion in a bid to catch up in the COVID vaccine race.

Translate Bio  (TBIO)  stock surged nearly 30% on Tuesday after French drugmaker Sanofi  (SNY)  agreed to buy its messenger-RNA development partner for $3.2 billion in cash as it looks to gain on rivals Moderna  (MRNA) , Pfizer  (PFE)  and BioNTech  (BNTX)  in the COVID-19 vaccine race.

Translate Bio stock jumped 29.16% to $37.65 after Sanofi said it will pay $38 in cash for each of Translate Bio’s shares. The transaction has been approved by the boards of both companies.

Sanofi is trying to catch up with its now household-name rivals after their shots proved that mRNA could create highly effective vaccines. BioNTech’s COVID vaccine alone, which it has made with partner Pfizer, has now been injected into arms more than a billion times.

Those two companies have been lavishly rewarded for their pioneering work, with Moderna’s market valuation rocketing toward $140 billion as of Monday and BioNTech’s valuation now exceeding $80 billion. Pfizer said last week that its coronavirus shot could bring in $33.5 billion in revenue this year alone.

By contrast, Sanofi’s COVID vaccine efforts are lagging. Its development of a recombinant protein vaccine, boosted by an adjuvant from GlaxoSmithKline  (GSK) , is in a phase 3 trial, while its program with Translate Bio is in an earlier phase 1/2 study, with results expected in the third quarter.

In Sanofi’s case, it is looking beyond COVID vaccines, with a longer-term aim to harness mRNA for other types of treatments including cancer and other diseases.

“Our goal is to unlock the potential of mRNA in other strategic areas such as immunology, oncology and rare diseases in addition to vaccines,” said Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said following the announcement. 

Sanofi shares rose less than 1% in Paris.