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Coronavirus Vaccine? Two Pharmaceutical Giants Collaborating To Develop One

Nurses and health care workers mourn and remember their colleagues who died during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus during a demonstration outside Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Nurses and health care workers mourn and remember their colleagues who died during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus during a demonstration outside Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

Two of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers are joining forces to develop a new vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

Usually, the pharmaceutical behemoths GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are competitors, but in a conference call with reporters, GSK CEO Emma Walmsley said the coronavirus pandemic represented "an unprecedented global health threat," and, therefore, required new ways of doing business.

"We're joining up with Sanofi in an unprecedented collaboration," Walmsley said. "It brings together two of the world's biggest vaccine companies with proven pandemic technologies and significant scale, all with the aim of developing an adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine."

An adjuvanted vaccine is one that includes a compound known as an adjuvant that enhances someone's immune response to a vaccine. In the partnership, GSK will be providing the adjuvant and Sanofi will provide the specific protein component of the coronavirus that will generate the appropriate antibody response.

GSK is hoping the partnership will reduce the development time of a vaccine considerably. Under normal circumstances, it can take a decade to bring a new vaccine to market.

"But we're planning to start trials in the next few months," Walmsley said. "And if we're successful, subject to regulatory considerations, we aim to complete the development required to make the vaccine available in the second half of 2021."

Johnson & Johnson also provided an update on that company's vaccine plans in a conference call with investors. Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said the company had identified one lead and two alternate vaccine candidates that it planned to prepare to manufacture.

"Our goal is to be able to produce 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally," Stoffels said. He added that he hoped to have results of safety data on the first vaccine candidate by the end of the year.

"This could allow vaccine availability under emergency use authorization by 2021," Stoffels said.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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