(Alliance News) - Pharmaceutical firms Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline PLC are to receive up to USD2.1 billion from the US government for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, the companies said Friday, as the world continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus epidemic.
The US had identified a vaccine candidate under investigation by Sanofi and GSK for its 'Operation Warp Speed', which aims to speedily secure millions of doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine will combine a Sanofi-developed antigen, which stimulates the production of germ-killing antibodies, with GSK's adjuvant technology, a substance that bolsters the immune response triggered by a vaccine, they said in a statement.
The American money, they added, will "help fund the development activities and secure scale-up of Sanofi's and GSK's manufacturing capabilities in the US for the recombinant protein-based, adjuvanted vaccine, resulting in a significant increase in capacity."
In April, Sanofi and GSK announced they were joining forces on a COVID-19 vaccine they hoped to have in clinical trials this year, potentially making it available in the second half of 2021.
On Friday, they said there were also discussions with the European Commission and other governments "to ensure global access to a novel coronavirus vaccine."
Alex Azar of the US Department of Health & Human Services said the portfolio of vaccines being assembled under Operation Warp Speed "increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year."
"Today's investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people," the statement quoted him as saying.Â
"The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone," added Thomas Triomphe, the head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company's vaccine division.
The US Pentagon on Thursday had announced a USD342 million contract has been awarded to GSK to deliver "mass quantities of Covid-19 vaccines" to US troops.
It said GSK was the only company to make a bid for the contract, which will consist of supporting "military locations and personnel throughout the continental US and outside the continental US."
The work will be carried out in North Carolina "with an estimated completion date of February 28, 2021," the Pentagon said.
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