Two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are joining forces to create a coronavirus vaccine – although it may not be available until the end of 2021.
British firm GSK and French multinational Sanofi announced the collaboration in the hope of providing long-lasting immunity to Covid-19 cheaply and on a mass scale.
Their vaccine is one of at least 70 in development across the globe as scientists race to find a way to stop the virus.
Sanofi will contribute its S-protein antigen, based on recombinant DNA technology, which stimulates the production of antibodies for the virus.
GSK will contribute the adjuvant to enhance the immune response so that less antigen is needed, meaning more doses can be made available.
Emma Walmsley, chief executive of GSK, said the aim was to start trials later this year and make it available “for the second half of 2021”.
“This would be a significantly faster time than for normal vaccine development and teams for both companies are starting work on it urgently,” she added.
“We believe that if successful we will be able to make hundreds of millions of doses available annually by the end of next year.”
Ms Walmsley said they were also collaborating on other projects because they believe ”more than one vaccine will be needed” to stop Covid-19.
Paul Hudson, chief executive of Sanofi, said: “As the world faces this unprecedented global health crisis, it is clear that no one company can go it alone.
“That is why Sanofi is continuing to complement its expertise and resources with our peers, such as GSK, with the goal to create and supply sufficient quantities of vaccines that will help stop this virus.”
Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) compiled a list of the 70 potential vaccines being developed worldwide.
Three candidates in China and the US are making the fastest progress. One of those, developed by CanSino and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, has already published results from testing of the vaccine on patients.
Another made in the US by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Moderna Inc is not far behind. NIH infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci said there were ”no red flags” so far and he hoped the next, larger phase of testing could begin around June.
Dozens of other vaccines, using a variety of different approaches, are in the pre-clinical evaluation stage, which involves testing on non-human subjects.
However the WHO has warned that a vaccine for coronavirus is unlikely to be available for at least 12 months.
Additional reporting by agencies