GSK, Sanofi shares tumble as pharmaceutical giants delay COVID-19 vaccine until end of 2021

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One of the great hopes of a vaccine against the coronavirus, the candidate of Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, will not appear until the end of 2021 at the earliest.

Shares of French and UK pharmaceutical companies plunged on Friday, after saying initial trials of their vaccine generated an insufficient immune response in the elderly. They said they were still convinced the vaccine would be successful, but – pending successful improvements – its availability is now only scheduled for the fourth quarter of next year.

Sanofi’s share price fell more than 2% on the news, while GSK fell more than 1.4%, underperforming broader European markets.

Friday’s announcement is a blow to those who hope to vaccinate the planet as quickly as possible.

Despite the fact that Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is already deployed in UK, and although Moderna’s candidate has shown very promising results, a multitude of vaccines will be needed to complete the task.

Sanofi / GSK among participants in U.S. Operation Warp Speed ​​vaccine development program – Trump administration pledged $ 2.1 billion for 100 million doses of their injection. The European Union has an order for 300 million doses. Both will have to wait.

“The results of the study are not what we expected,” GSK Chief Vaccine Officer Roger Connor said in a statement Friday. Thomas Triomphe, director of Sanofi Pasteur, said companies were disappointed, but “all of our decisions are and always will be guided by science and data.”

“We have identified the way forward and remain confident and determined to deliver a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” said Triomphe. “Following these results and the latest encouraging preclinical data, we will now work to further optimize our candidate to achieve this goal.”

The Sanofi / GSK candidate should have the advantage of not requiring extra-cold refrigeration, as does Pfizer / BioNTech. This is a characteristic shared by the candidate vaccines of Johnson & johnson and AstraZeneca, which are considered crucial to the success of Operation Warp Speed.

AstraZeneca’s candidate, developed alongside the University of Oxford, has puzzled many observers being more effective when the first of its two doses is only half a dose. The British company is now planning to conduct further tests to verify what is going on.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, Australian biotech company CSL and the University of Queensland halted trials of their candidate vaccine, and the Australian government canceled his order for 51 million doses. Part of the vaccine was made from the human immunodeficiency virus, and some trial participants got false positives in HIV tests.

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