Sanofi pays Translate $425m to expand mRNA partnership

The deal expands upon a 2018 collaboration and comes as Translate Bio builds out its mRNA vaccine production facilities in Massachusetts.

In 2018, French pharma giant Sanofi teamed up with Translate Bio to develop messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for up to five infectious disease pathogens for an initial three-year period. This week, the firms have announced the collaboration will be expanding.

mRNA vaccines work by delivering a nucleotide sequence that codes for the proteins that pathogens use to cause disease. Those proteins act as antigens recognized by the immune system, enabling the body to mimic a native infection to elicit an immune response.

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Translate’s mRNA vaccine is based on its MRT platform – developed by Shire Human Genetic Therapies and acquired by Translate in 2016 – which is designed to deliver mRNA that can carry instructions to produce intracellular, transmembrane and secreted proteins.

“Translate Bio is responsible for the discovery, design and manufacture/supply of mRNA vaccine candidates required to support preclinical and other activities as well as IND-enabling and clinical studies,” Translate’s CEO Ron Renaud told us.

Sanofi is paying Translate $300 million cash and a private placement common stock investment of $125 million. However, the deal could be worth up to $1.9 billion for Translate depending on milestone and other payments.

Manufacturing

“The work is ongoing at our headquarters in Lexington, MA, with large scale manufacturing taking place at our contract manufacturing organization also based in Massachusetts,” said Renaud. “Sanofi will conduct preclinical and clinical studies in support of registration and commercialization.”

Currently, Translate has can make multi-millions of doses of mRNA vaccines at a manufacturing scale of 100 gram single-batch production capacity. Renaud said “a build-out is currently underway to potentially enable 250 gram single-batch production which could produce 90-360 million doses annually by 1H 2021, depending on final human dose.” Financial details regarding the manufacturing scale up have not been divulged.

Under the terms of the Sanofi deal, Translate Bio will also transfer technology and processes to the French drugmaker to develop and manufacture mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases.

Just last week, Sanofi announced plans to build a $550 million modular and flexible vaccine production plant in Neuville sur Saône, north of Lyon, France.

However, Renaud said: “We have not yet disclosed details around the tech transfer to Sanofi. The manufacturing location would be a question for Sanofi. Sanofi is a world leader in vaccine development and distribution/commercialization, and we believe that this expanded agreement allows us to broadly develop mRNA vaccines with an expert in the vaccine space, leveraging their resources and expertise.”

In a separate arrangement, Sanofi and Translate are working together on an mRNA against COVID-19.

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