The French drugmaker Sanofi said Friday that it had secured an agreement of up to $2.1 billion to supply the U.S. federal government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the largest such deal announced to date.
The arrangement brings the Trump administration’s investment in coronavirus vaccine projects to more than $8 billion. This multiagency effort, known as Operation Warp Speed, is placing bets on multiple vaccines and is paying companies to manufacture millions of doses before clinical trials have been completed.
“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and global head of Sanofi Pasteur, the company’s vaccine division, said in a statement.
Under the deal announced, Sanofi and its partner, the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, will receive federal funding to pay for clinical trials as well as for manufacturing the vaccine. Sanofi said the deal also includes an option for the company to supply an additional 500 million doses. The company expects to begin clinical trials to test for safety in September, followed by late-stage efficacy trials before the end of this year.
The head of Operation Warp Speed, Moncef Slaoui, is a former GSK executive who as of May held just under $10 million in GSK stock. Slaoui’s financial ties to some of the companies that are pursuing coronavirus vaccines have raised questions about conflicts of interest.
Sanofi and GSK did not say how much of the federal money would go to each company — only that Sanofi would receive the most. GSK did not comment on whether Slaoui had recused himself from negotiations over the deal. A senior administration official said that all agreements were negotiated by federal “acquisition professionals” and that Slaoui did not play a role in the negotiations.
The news comes days after Sanofi announced a deal with the British government to supply up to 60 million doses of the vaccine. The amount of that deal was not made public. The company also received $30.8 million from the U.S. government in April to develop the vaccine.
A handful of other vaccine candidates are already in late-stage clinical trials, and some, such as AstraZeneca and Moderna, have said a vaccine could be ready before the end of this year.