Sanofi Abandons COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine Amid Rivals’ Success

PARIS, September 28 (Reuters) – Sanofi (SASY.PA) is abandoning plans for its own mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine due to the dominant role of BioNTech-Pfizer (22UAy.DE)(PFE.N) Alliance as well as Modern (MRNA.O) in the fight against the pandemic, the company said Tuesday.

The move highlights the challenges of competing, in particular, with pioneering BioNTech. (22UAy.DE), which emerged from obscurity through its alliance with major pharmaceuticals Pfizer last year. So far, the couple have administered nearly 1.5 billion doses, making them the largest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer in the Western world.

French healthcare group Sanofi will instead focus on efforts with British partner GlaxoSmithKline to bring another COVID-19 candidate vaccine based on the more conventional protein-based approach to market, where massive trials are underway. read more

The decision to abandon clinical development of an mRNA-based injection, or messenger RNA, acquired as part of its acquisition of Translate Bio, came despite a positive phase I / II study. results announced Tuesday where the participants’ blood readings showed a strong immune reaction.

But Sanofi said the reading encouraged him only to pursue the technology as a potential vaccine against influenza and other diseases, forgoing the COVID-19 area due to the strong market presence of the two approved mRNA injections.

“These results will clearly help inform the way forward for our mRNA development programs,” said Jean-Francois Toussaint, global director of research and development at Sanofi Pasteur.

Sanofi shares rose 1.1% to € 83.01 at 0850 GMT, outpacing a 0.9% drop in the STOXX Europe 600 Health Care. (.SXDP).

“The decision to terminate RNA appears to be interpreted as positive, as they will save development costs and focus on other products and companies,” said Ion-Marc Valahu, a fund manager at Geneva-based investment firm Clairinvest.

The company said it began testing an mRNA vaccine against seasonal influenza in humans in June and will launch follow-up clinical studies next year.

The development of RNA flu vaccines is already shaping up to be a close race, as drug manufacturers hope to be able to more quickly adjust the vaccine to ever-changing strains in circulation.

Pfizer said this week that it began testing an mRNA vaccine against influenza. Moderna has several flu vaccine candidates in development, including combinations that include a COVID-19 booster. read more

Seqirus, established flu vaccine supplier, part of CSL Australia (CSL.AX)For example, it is working on next-generation low-dose RNA anti-flu injections, known as self-amplified RNA.

Companies like Novavax are working on new flu vaccines using new technology beyond mRNA. read more

Sanofi reported 2.5 billion euros ($ 2.9 billion) in flu vaccine sales in 2020, the largest of its vaccine business, which posted total sales of 5.9 billion euros.

MRNA vaccines trick the human body into producing proteins known as antigens found on the surface of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That prepares the immune system to quell future infections.

Under the more traditional protein-based vaccine approach that Sanofi will now focus on, the antigen is bioengineered in laboratories and combined with an efficacy booster known as an adjuvant, provided by GSK.

Sanofi executive Thomas Triomphe told reporters at a briefing that the EU and Britain had ordered 75 million doses of this vaccine, relying on future regulatory approval.

The German biotechnology company CureVac (5CV.DE) Earlier this month it also recognized the dominance of its rivals when it canceled some of the contract manufacturing agreements for its experimental COVID-19 mRNA vaccine with two potential partners. read more

The CureVac product is under review by the European Union drug regulator with an uncertain outcome after disappointing trial results.

Sanofi shares lagging rivals
Moderna’s market capitalization overtakes Sanofi

($ 1 = 0.8537 euros)

Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Sarah White and Sudip Kar-Gupta, edited by David Evans and Louise Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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