French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which has lagged behind rivals in developing new-generation mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, said Tuesday it has bought a US company specializing in the technology.
Sanofi is buying Translate Bio, with which it has been working on the development of an mRNA Covid shot, for $3.2 billion (€2.7 billion), the company said in a statement.
Sanofi was left behind in the race to break out a Covid-19 vaccine in 2020 as rivals Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used breakthrough mRNA technology to develop jabs in record time.
At the end of June, it announced that it would invest two billion euros in the technology by setting up a “centre of excellence” with 400 people at its laboratories in the US city of Cambridge and Marcy-L’Etoile near the French city of Lyon. .
Messenger RNA technology works by giving human cells the genetic instructions to make a coronavirus surface protein, which trains the immune system to recognize the real virus.
Making a traditional vaccine is a longer process that normally involves developing an attenuated form of a pathogen.
Sanofi, which initially went the traditional route, is still racing to gain ground in the colossal market for Covidjabs.
The European Medicines Agency only started a “rolling review” of Sanofi’s coronavirus shot, developed with British company GSK, on July 20.
Sanofi, which has been working to develop an mRNA vaccine with Translate Bio, based in Lexington, Massachusetts, said it was betting on the new technology after the coronavirus pandemic.
“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 CEO Paul Hudson said in a statement.
Sanofi is not alone in such ambitions.
Germany’s BioNTech, which co-developed the coronavirus vaccine with US giant Pfizer, announced in July that it wanted to begin testing a malaria vaccine using its breakthrough mRNA technology.