In Brief

UK drug giant teams up with French rival for Covid-19 vaccine

GlaxoSmithKline hopes to have coronavirus treatment available next year

A leading British drug company is joining forces with a French rival to develop a coronavirus vaccine and manufacture hundreds of millions of doses.

GlaxoSmithKline is to team up with Sanofi on a treatment that they hope to test on humans during the second half of 2020 and make available a year later if regulators grant approval.

The Times says the tie-up is “significant” because it “raises the prospect that a Covid-19 treatment could be manufactured quickly on the large scale required to tackle the pandemic”.

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The chief executive of GSK, Emma Walmsley, said: “We’re committed to making any vaccine that’s developed through the collaboration affordable to the public.”

She said the company does not intend to profit from the intiative and plans to donate the therapy to the world’s poorest countries.

Sanofi is offering a Covid-19 antigen — the molecule that helps the body to produce antibodies — it is developing, while GSK brings to the table its adjuvant technology, which boosts an antigen’s potency and makes smaller doses more effective.

As the BBC reports, vaccines work by introducing a small amount of a virus or bacteria to the immune system. This means that when the body comes into contact with the illness for real, it recognises it as an “invader” and knows how to fight it.

Although the timescale of a Covid-19 vaccine only being available in the second half of next year seems painfully slow, most vaccines take a decade or more to get regulatory approval.

The World Health Organization said there are 70 separate Covid-19 vaccines in development. Among those scrambling to produce one is a team led by Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, who told The Times last week that she was “80% confident” that their treatment would work, possibly by September.

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