WebMD News Brief

Major Drugmakers Join Forces on COVID-19 Vaccine

photo of man in mask

April 17, 2020 - Two giant drug companies – Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline – are teaming up to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Sanofi hopes its earlier research on a vaccine for SARS will give it a leg up on the search for a COVID-19 vaccine. SARS is a disease caused by a coronavirus that's similar to the one that causes COVID-19.

Sanofi says it will use technology called "recombinant DNA platform" to make genetic matches to the proteins on the surface of the new coronavirus.

GlaxoSmithKline plans to tap its experience in making "adjuvants" – ingredients added to vaccines that boost the response of your body's immune system.

Adjuvants also reduce the amount of vaccine protein that's needed for each dose. That lets vaccine makers create larger quantities of vaccines.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline hope they can start clinical trials on the vaccine by the end of this year. If they succeed, the companies say the vaccine will be ready for people to use by the second half of 2021.

The two drugmakers aren't alone in the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine. Dozens of companies and research groups are also at work. The biotech company Moderna and a handful of other outfits have started testing vaccines in people.