Sanofi and GSK report ‘positive’ results from Covid booster

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline’s next generation Covid-19 vaccine could be used as a booster, after new data suggested that it elicited a strong immune response against the Omicron variant.

The French healthcare company said the “next-generation” booster jab delivered a “strong immune response” against variants of Covid, including Omicron, after two trials. It was safe and well tolerated in the study of 247 people.

The vaccine makers said their jab increased antibodies to tackle the BA.1 Omicron strain by 40-fold in participants who had received two messengerRNA shots, the technology used in popular vaccines from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer.

They reported that the vaccine outperformed a third dose of the current BioNTech/Pfizer jab, eliciting double the number of neutralising antibodies to BA.1 and BA.2.

Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president of Sanofi Vaccines, said Covid kept evolving and waning immunity was likely to lead to the need for additional booster shots, at least in some populations.

“We believe this next-generation booster could have an important role to play for public health vaccination campaigns.”

Sanofi and GSK, two of the world’s largest vaccine makers, have lagged behind in the race to create a Covid vaccine. Their traditional technology could not keep up with the rapid development enabled by mRNA and a mistake in an early trial set it back further. Sanofi developed the vaccine, with GSK providing an adjuvant that boosts its efficacy.

The companies only applied for regulatory approval for their first vaccine in February, more than a year after the shots from BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca were approved. They have not yet received approval but are simultaneously pursuing this next-generation vaccine, designed to be better able to tackle variants of the Sars CoV-2 virus.

If approved, the new vaccine will face competition from other shots tailored to variants, including Omicron. Last week, Moderna reported that its “bivalent booster” that targets both the original virus and Omicron was “significantly superior” to using its original shot as a booster. Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to report data from their vaccine tailored to tackle Omicron in the coming weeks.

Even if the Covid vaccine market declines, it may be important for Sanofi to develop a shot in order to protect its large flu vaccine business. New entrants are trying to disrupt the flu market by using mRNA and hoping to create vaccines that can tackle both Covid and flu.

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