Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines global business unit of Sanofi (NASDAQ: SNY), externalized COVID-19 vaccine research and developed inking an extension deal with Translate Bio (Nasdaq: TBIO), a clinical-stage messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics company to develop a novel mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. This class of technology compares with other ventures, developing mRNA-based approaches including Moderna. The two, already partners, leveraged existing agreements memorialized in 2018 in place for the development of mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases.
A mRNA Platform Paired with Large Infrastructure and Capability
Translate Bio has developed multiple mRNA constructs on its mRNA platform to discover, design and manufacture SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates. The large French company (Sanofi) offers the deep expertise and support from external research networks in a bid to accelerate the advancement of vaccine candidates.
Translate Bio has established 100 gram single-batch production with its clinical-stage mRNA therapeutics platform. According to their recent press release, they will soon embark on build-out of dedicated manufacturing space via a manufacturing partner to accommodate at least 250 gran batches per month. Depending on the final human dose, Translate Bio’s mRNA platform has significant promise to meet the future demands for a pandemic response.
Sanofi Partnering up for COVID-19
Already with a deal underway with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to advance a COVID-19 candidate (recombinant, protein-based vaccine candidate targeting COVID-19), this second focuses on a prospective approach using a different technology, and of course vendor.
The Sanofi and Translate partnership inked in 2018 represents a collaboration and exclusive licensing agreement with Sanofi Pasteur Inc., the vaccine global business unit of Sanofi A.A., to develop mRNA vaccines for up to five infectious disease pathogens. Combining Sanofi’s global leadership and market position in vaccines with Translate Bio’s mRNA research and development expertise represents how drugs get developed in many cases today—with externalized partners undertaking a lot of the R&D. A three-year term, Translate Bio and Sanofi Pasteur have advanced the preclinical development vaccine programs including screening, optimization and production of mRNA, and LNP formulations across multiple targets.
Emerging mRNA Space Targeting COVID-19
Both companies are targeting mRNA-based vaccine development for COVID-19. Messenger RNA (mRNA) represents a group of RNA molecules that transport genetic information from DNA to ribosome, where it dictates an amino acid series that produces proteins. The hypothesis goes, that by intelligently engineering a patient’s own mRNA, there is a potential to use it to engineer cells and transform them into protein production centers producing specified drug molecules associated with new therapies. Although Moderna is the most well-known player among this biotech class, it isn’t alone—joined by BioNtech (partnered with Pfizer) and of course Translate Bio aligned with Sanofi. Another prominent player in the mRNA space targeting COVID-19 includes CureVac, which President Trump approached in a lucrative exclusive buy-out deal which they rejected.
These vaccines work by mimicking disease agents to stimulate the immune system; building up a defense mechanism that remains active in the body to fight future infections. mRNA vaccines offer an innovative approach by delivering a nucleotide sequence encoding the antigen or antigens selected for their high potential to induce a protective immune response. mRNA vaccines also represent a potentially innovative alternative to conventional vaccine approaches for a number of reasons: such as their high potency, ability to initiate protein production without the need for nuclear entry, capacity for rapid development, and potential for low-cost manufacture and safe administration using non-viral delivery.
This method can enable the development of vaccines for disease areas where vaccination is not a viable option today. Moreover, a desired antigen, or multiple antigens, can be expressed from mRNA without the need to adjust the production process, offering maximum flexibility and efficiency in development.
About Translate Bio
Founded in 2011, Translate Bio is publicly traded and has raised over $180 million. With about 11 employees, they are one of a pack of new biotech ventures trying to pull ahead in the mRNA space with their proprietary mRNA therapeutic platform (MRTTM), designed to develop product candidates that deliver mRNA carrying instructions to produce intracellular, transmembrane, and secreted proteins for therapeutic benefit.
They believe their particular platform can extend to a broad range of diseases caused by insufficient protein production, or where production of proteins can modify diseases, including diseases that affect the lung, liver, eye, central nervous system, lymphatic system, and circulatory system. Their two lead programs center on treatments for cystic fibrosis (CF) and ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency.