Sanofi Pasteur has teamed with Translate Bio to develop messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines for up to five infectious disease pathogens.
Under terms of the deal, French vaccine developer Sanofi Pasteur will make an upfront sum of US$45 million (€38 million) to Massachusetts-based firm Translate Bio but total payments could reach $850 million on the back of developmental milestones and royalties.
The R&D for the undisclosed vaccine targets will be jointly conducted during an initial three-year period.
mRNA vaccines work by delivering a nucleotide sequence that codes for the proteins that pathogens use to cause disease. Those proteins essentially act as antigens that the immune system will recognize, enabling the body to mimic a native infection to elicit an immune response.
Sanofi Pasteur has previously invested in such technology through collaboration with Germany’s CureVac. The firm’s head of global research Nicholas Jackson told delegates at the BPI Summit Europe in April 2017 that mRNA could be a gamechanger in the vaccine space.
“It’s kind of one those things that you can’t afford to not be involved in, because if it is the next platform it is a complete gamechanger,” he said. “It’s going to be like PCR [Polymerase chain reaction] and change molecular biology. That’s the reason why there has been a frenzy of hundreds of millions invested in messenger RNA technology and there are now over 15 players.”
Translate is in a quiet period after filing with the SEC to go public, and so did not respond to questions sent from this publication.
But according to its prospectus, the firm’s MRT platform – developed by Shire Human Genetic Therapies and acquired by Translate in 2016 – is designed to deliver mRNA that can carry instructions to produce intracellular, transmembrane and secreted proteins.
Translate says the technology offers low immunogenicity, tissue-specific delivery, and scalable and flexible manufacturing.
“We believe that our manufacturing processes successfully address key issues commonly associated with the manufacturing of mRNA, such as poor capping at one end of the mRNA sequence and the extensive presence of prematurely-terminated sequences, such as double-stranded RNA and other contaminants,” the firm says.
“The modular nature of our mRNA drug substance manufacturing processes allows for versatility by using the same core production and purification processes for any mRNA drug substance.”
Translate Bio has set a preliminary target of $115 million in its initial public offering (IPO), which it intends to use to support its lead candidates – MRT5005 for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and MRT5201 for the treatment of ornithine transcarbamylase – through the clinic.