Paris-based Sanofi announced plans to increase its vaccines research and production capabilities. As part of the plan it will invest $679.4 million (€610 million) to create a new production site and a research center, both in France, both dedicated to vaccines.
“Sanofi’s heart beats in France,” said Sanofi’s chief executive officer Paul Hudson in a statement. “We have a long history and exceptional teams working throughout the country, embodying our strong values. By investing in a new industrial site and a R&D center, Sanofi positions France at the core of its strategy, aiming to make France a world-class center of excellence in vaccine research and production.”
The company’s Evolutive Vaccine Facility (EVF) will be based in Neuville sur Saone. This industrial site will leverage the latest innovative vaccine production technologies. The company will invest €490 million over a five-year period, with plans to create 200 new jobs.
Sanofi Pasteur is Sanofi’s vaccine company and it will utilize the manufacturing site to handle any new pandemics. Sanofi indicates that EVF “is a new type of factory designed around a central unit housing several fully digital production modules that make it possible to produce three to four vaccines simultaneously, versus only one in current industrial sites. This modularity will make it possible to prioritize the production of a specific vaccine in a more timely manner based on public health issues.”
Of the total funding, €120 million will go to form a new R&D center at the Sanofi Pasteur site in Marcy-l’Etoile to develop future vaccines. It too will be a state-of-the-art digital facility with specialized laboratories. Sanofi indicates it plans for the facility to become a world reference for preclinical research and pharmaceutical and clinical development.
Hudson added, “Sanofi is a major healthcare player in France, in Europe, and worldwide. It is our responsibility to focus our resources and expertise against the current pandemic, but also to invest in preparing for future ones. We welcome the ongoing collaboration and commitment of the French authorities who we have been working alongside with the last several months to achieve this.”
Sanofi, in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, is approaching the development of two different COVID-19 vaccines with two different technological approaches. The first, with GSK, is using recombinant DNA technology, which would allow for manufacturing very large quantities of antigens, the proteins that are injected to stimulate the immune system. The second is messenger RNA technology in collaboration with TranslateBio. This is a new technology also being utilized by U.S.-based Moderna and Germany-based BioNTech, which is collaborating with Pfizer.
Sanofi says it is committed to making its vaccine accessible to “all and around the world.”
On April 14, Sanofi and GSK signed a letter of intent to collaborate on the COVID-19 vaccine using technology from both companies. Sanofi is contributing its S-protein COVID-19 antigen, which utilizes recombinant DNA technology. This allows for an exact genetic match to proteins found on the virus surface. The DNA sequence that codes for the antigen has been combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression program, which Sanofi uses for its recombinant influenza product in the U.S.
GSK is contributing its pandemic adjuvant technology, which can decrease the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, which allows for more manufacturing volume.
At the time, Emma Walmsley, chief executive officer of GSK, said, “This collaboration brings two of the world’s largest vaccines companies together. By combining our science and our technologies, we believe we can help accelerate the global effort to develop a vaccine to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.”
The deal with TranslateBio was signed earlier, on March 27. That deal leverages an existing agreement from 2018 to develop mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases. The primary aspect of that agreement is TranslateBio is producing multiple mRNA constructs using its technology platform to discover, design, and manufacture several SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. Sanofi will provide its vaccine expertise and its external research network to advance vaccine candidates.