French pharma giant Sanofi struggling in race for Covid vaccine

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The so-called “big pharma” groups are engaged in fierce competition to produce efficacious Covid-19 vaccines. While Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have gained widespread approval for their vaccines, that of France’s flagship pharma group Sanofi, developed in partnership with UK drugs firm GSK, is seriously delayed after disappointing clinical tests. Some argue that Sanofi should serve the public interest and turn to producing the approved vaccines of its rivals, supplies of which are disrupted. But, as Rozenn Le Saint reports, the stakes are high and defeat would be costly in more ways than one.

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On December 11th 2020, French pharmaceutical group Sanofi and British pharma firm GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) announced that their joint development of a vaccine against Covid-19 was delayed after the first phase of clinical tests which began on September 3rd had shown “a low immune response” in the over-50 age group “likely due to an insufficient concentration of the antigen”.