Sanofi doesn’t plan to pursue the development of Covid vaccine

French pharma giant scraps development of messenger RNA vaccine to focus on booster shots

Sanofi doesn’t plan to pursue the development of a messenger RNA vaccine against Covid-19 because the shot will come too late to market.

The French pharmaceutical giant, which has lagged rivals in deploying the technology behind some of the world’s top-selling Covid shots, made the decision despite positive results at phase one and two trials.

Carrying on with the development “wouldn’t address an immediate public health need, because the product would arrive too late on the market”, a spokesperson said. “Sanofi is focusing therefore on a recombinant protein candidate to address the needs of a booster vaccine.”

The French drugmaker is developing that shot with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline Plc using a technology already in use in the company’s seasonal flu shots. That product, which suffered months of delays, is now in a late-stage trial and could gain clearance by the end of the year.


Sanofi shares rose 0.5 per cent in early Paris trading.

Ordinarily a giant in the vaccines space, Sanofi has lagged behind upstarts BioNTech and Moderna in the pandemic as they raced ahead with mRNA shots that have now been injected into arms more than a billion times and generated billions in revenue.

In August, Sanofi bought its messenger-RNA development partner Translate Bio for $3.2 billion with the aim of moving beyond vaccines and harnessing mRNA for treatments – something BioNTech is investigating for cancer.

“Our goal is to unlock the potential of mRNA in other strategic areas such as immunology, oncology and rare diseases in addition to vaccines,” Sanofi chief executive officer Paul Hudson said at the time of the deal.

In June, Sanofi announced plans to invest about $480 million a year in mRNA technology with a newly created “centre of excellence” focused on everything from basic research to manufacturing. That initiative is aimed at speeding up the pipeline of mRNA products being developed by Sanofi and Translate Bio, along with making mRNA shots that are more stable at average temperatures and less likely to cause side effects.

- Bloomberg