The Rush To Create A COVID-19 Vaccine, Biotech Companies Join Forces

Cambridge-based Translate Bio’s stocks recently bobbed up 5 percent after signing a deal with drug-maker Sanofi to collaborate on a COVID-19 vaccine. The two firms are already hard at work on other initiatives to bring an end to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Still, they are teaming up to optimize their respective expertise in the biotech sector.

“We are committed to leveraging different ways to address the COVID-19 public health crisis by testing treatments, as well as two vaccines using different platforms,” said David Loew, Sanofi’s global head of vaccines. Between Translate Bio's work with messenger RNA (mRNA) and Sanofi's extensive experience with vaccine development, the two companies are building on an already existing partnership struck in 2018 to make medication for infectious diseases.

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Medical research into mRNA as a way to transmit genetic information and help the body create proteins has yielded promising results for fighting certain diseases. Translate Bio is already producing multiple mRNA constructs and will use its platform to create several SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates while Sanofi provides consultation and access to its well-established research network.

Similar agreements have been struck between other industry leaders, much like the one signed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German-based BioNTech earlier in the year. The firms are working on COVID-19 vaccines using Bio’s mRNA research and Pfizer’s massive resources to design and distribute vaccines. Human trials are expected to begin as early as this month. Moderna already started its first clinical trials for its COVID-19 cure after partnering with a number of US government health agencies. Utilizing innovative methods, the firm was previously able to deliver a cancer vaccine within 40 days, and hopes are Moderna can do something similar with a viable coronavirus vaccine.

Translate Bio and Sanofi recognize the importance of finding a way to contain COVID-19, however, and aren’t waiting for other organizations to find an answer. In fact, CEO Ronald Renaud doesn't view them as competition in the battle against the virus. "I think for the vast majority of folks – I'm certainly speaking for Translate Bio, and I'm sure Sanofi Pasteur – this is an urgent response to a pandemic situation," he said. "In terms of the financial implications of this, that will be figured out somewhere down the road."

Founded in 2011, Translate Bio is a biotech firm specializing in clinical-stage mRNA therapeutics. They focus primarily on developing treatments for pulmonary diseases derived from insufficient production of protein and other conditions caused by genetic or protein dysfunction. The organization's crown jewel is its cystic fibrosis treatment that is currently undergoing its first of two human trials.

Sanofi is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to finding solutions to some of healthcare's toughest challenges. With five business units and a global reach, the firm is a trusted industry leader in general medicines & emerging markets, specialty care, vaccines, consumer healthcare, and diabetes & cardiovascular. With a staff of 100,000, Sanofi operates in over 100 countries and 2018 sales were approximately $37 billion.