Sanofi to produce millions of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines to supply EU

French drugmaker to share access to production facility in unusual collaboration with rival

Sanofi agreed to produce millions of doses of BioNTech and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in an unusual collaboration to speed vaccination efforts.

The French drugmaker will give BioNTech access to a production facility in Frankfurt, which will start to deliver doses this summer, Sanofi said in a statement on Wednesday. The deal will produce more than 125 million doses of the messenger RNA vaccine for the European Union.

Sanofi’s own effort to develop a vaccine with another big pharma firm has stumbled, meaning it won’t be ready by summer as expected. The agreement allows the region to make up for some of the loss, accelerating the complex process of packaging and distributing a vaccine that needs to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures. Such deals may become more common as a way to scale up manufacturing.

"We had a slight delay on one of our vaccine candidates and decided to use that time to mobilise our production capacities to help with the Pfizer one," Olivier Bogillot, who heads Sanofi's French operations, said on RTL radio. It's the first time a drugmaker will work to help make a rival's vaccine, he said.

Pfizer and BioNTech have been looking for ways to increase the supply of their immunisation, from expanding existing plants to adding suppliers and contract manufacturers. Lonza Group, the Swiss company that manufactures the Moderna vaccine, said on Wednesday that it's hard at work looking for ways to increase output and is willing to help other producers making treatments or shots.

Sanofi’s own Covid-19 vaccine candidate in development with GlaxoSmithKline will enter another intermediate clinical trial in February, with the potential to reach the market in the fourth quarter, the company said. The experimental product was dealt a blow in December after a study showed it had failed to produce a strong enough response in older people, perhaps because of a formulation error.

Sanofi also plans to start early clinical trials for its own messenger RNA vaccine candidate in February or March. The stock rose about 1 per cent in Paris trading. - Bloomberg