By Michael Erman and Carl O’Donnell
July 31 (Reuters) – The US government will pay $ 2.1 billion to Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline Plc for COVID-19 vaccines covering 50 million people and subscribing to the testing and manufacturing of drugs, companies said on Friday.
The grant is the largest yet from ‘Operation Warp Speed’, the White House initiative aimed at speeding up access to vaccines and treatments to combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus again.
The deal, announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, comes out at a cost of about $ 42 per person vaccinated.
This is almost identical to the $ 40 per patient the U.S. agreed to pay Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE when it inked a nearly $ 2 billion deal for 50 million courses of that potential vaccine last week. passed.
The Sanofi-GSK agreement is for 100 million doses, with two per person, giving the government the option to purchase an additional 500 million doses at an unspecified price. Sanofi and GSK plan to start clinical trials for the vaccine in September.
Sanofi executive Clement Lewin said the companies had not yet agreed with the government on a specific price for the additional doses.
GSK said in a statement that more than half of the total funding will go to further vaccine development, including clinical trials, with the remainder used for ramp manufacturing and dose delivery.
The inoculation of the two companies is a combination of a vaccine based on Sanofi flu shots and complementary technology from GSK called an adjuvant, designed to improve the potency of the vaccine.
Sanofi will receive most of the proceeds from the deal.
It marks the second contract for the Franco-British pair’s vaccine candidate after they agreed earlier this week to provide 60 million doses to the British government.
Reuters reported last week that the Pfizer deal was expected to set a price benchmark for future drug-government deals.
Modern Inc. and Pfizer began two trials of 30,000 COVID-19 vaccine subjects on Monday that could clear the way for regulatory approval and use by the end of 2020. (Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Peter Henderson, Grant McCool and Jan Harvey)