FRANCE – Sanofi, a French multinational pharmaceutical company, has bought off USA based biotechnology company Translate Bio in a $3.2 billion deal, as it bets on next-generation mRNA technology after setbacks in the COVID-19 vaccine race.
Translate Bio, set up in 2016, has not launched any drugs on the market but its clinical-stage pulmonary product using its mRNA platform is being tested as an inhaled treatment for cystic fibrosis in a Phase I/II clinical trial.
“Translate Bio adds an mRNA technology platform and strong capabilities to our research, further advancing our ability to explore the promise of this technology to develop both best-in-class vaccines and therapeutics,” said Sanofi Chief Executive Paul Hudson.
Sanofi’s bid for Translate Bio marks the latest interest by a large pharmaceutical company in mRNA technology, following its proven success in COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna.
The messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid) approach, an area of Translate Bio expertise, instructs human cells to make specific proteins that produce an immune response to a given disease.
Sanofi and Translate Bio have been working together since 2018 and joined forces last year to develop an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. They expect interim results of their Phase I/II clinical trial in the third quarter.
The two companies are also looking at mRNA vaccines for several infectious diseases and in June started a Phase I trial evaluating a possible mRNA-based vaccine against seasonal influenza, building on Sanofi’s expertise as one of the world’s top flu vaccine makers.
Sanofi’s interest comes after a tough year for the French drug maker after falling behind rivals with less experience in the COVID-19 vaccine race, a major blow to CEO Paul Hudson who joined the company almost two years ago.
The pharmaceutical company warned last year its traditional, protein-based COVID-19 jab developed with GlaxoSmithKline showed an insufficient immune response in older people, delaying its launch until toward the end of 2021.
Hudson has also been under increasing pressure to reduce the company’s dependence on its star eczema treatment Dupixent to boost earnings. Earlier this year, it agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of shots made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
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