Sanofi producing Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines

Sanofi is still prioritizing the development of its own two coronavirus vaccine programs

French drug maker Sanofi, battling development delays with its own vaccine candidates against COVID-19, is turning over more of its vaccine production facilities to industrial competitors, teaming up with Johnson & Johnson to produce millions of doses of its rival coronavirus vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson is the second rival to have struck a deal with Sanofi to use its facilities, an unusual collaboration for the competitive industry now facing intense pressure from governments to speed up the production of vaccines against the devastating global pandemic.

Sanofi's CEO, Paul Hudson, said the agreement announced by the company on Monday demonstrates its "commitment to the collective effort to ending this crisis as quickly as possible."

Sanofi is still prioritizing the development of its own two coronavirus vaccine programs, Hudson said in a company statement.

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But "where we have the right manufacturing capabilities, we are stepping forward to show solidarity in the industry and continue doing our part in the fight against COVID-19," he added.

Sanofi said its Marcy l’Etoile vaccine manufacturing plant near the city of Lyon will formulate and fill vials of the single-dose vaccine for Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen companies.

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Sanofi will blend together vaccine ingredients sent to it by Janssen and fill vials, and then ship the full vials back to Janssen for packaging. The French plant is expected to produce about 12 million doses per month, starting in the second half of this year.

Sanofi had already previously announced that its facilities in Frankfurt, Germany, also will help bottle and package 125 million vaccine doses for the rival partnership of Pfizer-BioNTech.

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Sanofi’s latest announcement was quickly trumpeted by French President Emmanuel Macron. His government has pressed Sanofi to use its facilities to help make vaccines from its rivals, because of the high global demand for vaccines and supply problems.

"We must together accelerate the production of vaccines with industrial partnerships," Macron tweeted.