U.S. Drops $2.1 Billion on Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine

Henrietta Strickland
August 1, 2020

The U.S. government has a further option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed program.

Glaxo shares traded 1.6% higher in London, with Sanofi up 1.4% in Paris.

That is almost identical to the $40 per patient the USA agreed to pay Pfizer and BioNTech when it inked a nearly $2 billion deal for 50 million courses of that potential vaccine last week.

The European Commission announced on Friday that it has struck a deal with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to reserve 300 million doses of a possible future COVID-19 vaccine.

Armed with an emergency fund of more than 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion), the European Commission wants to strike deals with up to six drugmakers for their vaccines for their 450 million citizens against the coronavirus that has killed 674,000 people worldwide. The companies could request US regulatory approval in the first half of 2021, assuming the results are positive, they added.

Operation Warp Speed is headed up by Moncef Slaoui, a former GSK executive who is still not employed by the federal government, but working on contract at the helm of the vaccine initiative.

The companies had said in April they would work together to make a vaccine against Covid-19, using Sanofi's flu vaccine technology and Glaxo's adjuvant - a compound that boosts the power of a vaccine.

Sanofi plans to reinvest potential vaccine profits back into coronavirus research and manufacturing capacity, according to a company spokesperson. The remainder will be earmarked for manufacturing and delivery of an initial 100 million doses.

The US has invested in a number of these projects.

The Commission is now negotiating with several vaccine developers to strike similar deals, it stated, adding that it is ready to team up with global partners if a "significant number of countries would agree to pool resources for jointly reserving future vaccines from companies for themselves" and for low and middle-income countries at the same time. The US also pledged as much as US$1.2 billion to AstraZeneca to spur development and production.

Operation Warp Speed seeks to telescope a process that typically takes years into just months.

"The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year", US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement distributed by Glaxo.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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