Without being able to offer its own vaccine against COVID-19 for the moment, the French laboratory Sanofi will bottle that of its competitors Pfizer and BioNTech and package more than 100 million doses this year for the European Union.
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The announcement of this boost was made Tuesday by Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson after the French government asked him several times, recently, to make its production lines available to its competitors.
In an interview published on the website of the daily Le Figaro, Mr. Hudson explains that Sanofi will use its German factory in Frankfurt to package the vaccine, which will be supplied to it by its competitors from July.
“This production site being located near the headquarters of BioNTech (in Mainz, Editor’s note), this will make things easier”, argues the boss of the French group.
The production will be destined for the European Union, and therefore partly for France, he added.
This agreement comes at a time when several laboratories are encountering difficulties in maintaining the high speeds necessary in order to respect the contracts they have signed.
The American group Pfizer and the German biotech BioNTech were the first to warn in mid-January that they were not going to be able to keep the schedule initially set with the EU, before saying they were able to limit delivery delays to one week.
Last week, it was Britain’s AstraZeneca, whose vaccine has yet to be approved in the European Union, to indicate that its deliveries would be smaller than expected in the first quarter, angering Brussels.
On Tuesday, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen put pressure on manufacturers by saying that they must “honor their obligations”.
“Europe has invested billions to develop the first vaccines and create a real global common good. Now companies must keep their promises, ”she argued in a video intervention at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
In response, the CEO of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, assured Tuesday evening at Le Figaro that his group “certainly does not take vaccines to Europeans to sell them elsewhere at a profit”, but put forward production concerns that ‘we had to settle.
Brussels announced at the beginning of January a new agreement with the Pfizer-BioNTech duo, providing for a firm pre-order of 200 million additional doses of their anti-COVID vaccine, with an option for 100 million more. This was in addition to the contract already concluded for 300 million doses of the vaccine, authorized since December 21 by the European Commission.
Regarding his own vaccine projects, Paul Hudson ensures that the recombinant protein one, a technology that Sanofi uses for its influenza vaccine, “is progressing well”, despite a few months of delay and should arrive on the market in the last quarter of 2021. Such a launch window makes sense, he said, as there will still be people to be vaccinated around the world at that time.
On the other hand, while several variants of the virus responsible for COVID-19 have been identified and questions remain concerning the effectiveness of vaccines already marketed against them, he considers that this technology “could be more effective against these vaccines. mutations’ as messenger RNA.
The French laboratory is still developing a vaccine based on this latest technology, used in particular by Pfizer and BioNTech, in partnership with an American biotech. “We believe we can enter the clinical phase with an RNA vaccine against COVID as early as the first quarter of this year,” Paul Hudson hoped.
Traditionally, developing a new vaccine takes an average of ten years, according to industry experts. If Sanofi got there for COVID-19 within two years, it would be an exceptionally short time, but the lab is suffering in comparison to its faster competitors.
This delay has fueled questions concerning the state of French research, redoubled since the announcement on Monday by the Pasteur Institute of the end of the development of its main vaccine project against COVID-19 in collaboration with the pharmaceutical laboratory MSD , name of the American giant Merck outside the United States and Canada.