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The French pharmaceutical company Sanofi is to start human trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine that it has been developing in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline, after what it said were promising preliminary tests.

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The launch of phase one and two trials represent an “important stage and another step towards the development of a potential vaccine to help us beat Covid-19,” Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi Pasteur’s executive vice-president, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The vaccine combines leading technology from both Sanofi and GSK.

A protein-based vaccine owned by Sanofi and used to treat influenza was paired with a GSK-developed add-on, known as an adjuvant, that boosts the recipient’s immune response.

“The pre-clinical trials show a promising security profile and immunogenity,”, that is, the ability to bring about an immune response, a Sanofi statement said.

The companies’ labs are to recruit 440 healthy participants to carry out tests where neither those tested nor observers know who has received a vaccine and who has been given a placebo. The tests are designed to evaluate the vaccine’s safety, tolerability and immune response.

“Positive data will enable a prompt start of the pivotal phase 3 trial by the end of this year,” Roger Connor, the president of GSK Vaccines, said in reference to the final step before a vaccine is brought to market.

In May, GSK said that the “science has moved on” since concerns were raised about links between narcolepsy and its H1N1 vaccine, called Pandemrix, which was developed during the flu pandemic 10 years ago.

Previous studies in several countries, including Britain, Finland, Sweden and Ireland, where GSK’s Pandemrix vaccine was used in the 2009/2010 flu pandemic, had suggested its use was linked to a significant rise in cases of narcolepsy in children.

Pandemrix’s ingredients included a booster, or adjuvant, known as AS03, which GSK said on Thursday it planned to produce in large volume for possible use in Covid-19 vaccines currently being developed to fight the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

AS03 could potentially be an ingredient in at least seven experimental Covid-19 vaccines, including one being developed by Sanofi, with whom GSK signed a collaboration deal in April.



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