Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline announced Friday that they are in advanced talks to provide up to 300 million doses of a potential coronavirus drug for the 27-nation European Union.
Granted with an emergency financing of over 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion), the European Commission is on a campaign to seal contracts with up to six biotech giants for their experimental vaccines for their 450 million citizens to protect them against COVID-19 that has claimed the lives of 674,000 people around the globe.
The European Commission disclosed that the main objective of the discussions with Sanofi was to secure an advance acquisition agreement.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that while they don't know today which treatment will be most effective and safe in the end, "Europe is investing in a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies," Jasmin Bauomy of Euronews quoted Leyen as saying in his report.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive division which negotiated the deal, stated that it will let all 27 member countries to acquire the experimental drug as soon as it was proven to be safe and effective.
The announcement comes on the same day that the U.S. government announced it would supply up to $2.1 billion to GSK and Sanofi for the production of a COVID-19 drug as the world continues to fight the disease.
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline aim to combine the Sanofi-developed antigen, which stimulates the generation of antibodies, with GSK's adjuvant technology which boosts immune response triggered by a vaccine.
Sanofi and GSK said the doses would be produced in European nations including Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy. Sanofi is spearheading the clinical development of the drug and estimates to begin the trial by the end of 2020.
Earlier this week, European Union talks with Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer hit an obstacle regarding price, method of payment, and possible liability costs, EU officials told Reuters. Other biotech groups that are currently in discussions with the EU include Valneva of France, Moderna and pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and CureVac of Germany.
Sanofi is also embarking on a clinical development and vaccine registration procedure and looks to start Phase 1 and Phase 2 tests next month, followed by a Phase III trial by end of the year. If the data shows promising results, regulatory approval for the candidate drug could be obtained by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has identified a potential vaccine under development by Sanofi and GSK for its Operation Warp Speed, and targets to rapidly secure millions of doses.