China’s tech giant Baidu Inc. announced to have licensed its algorithm for messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence technology to French drugmaker, Sanofi SA. The move comes to allow the major global drugmaker to use the sequence for use in designing vaccines and therapeutic products.
It is reportedly the first time Baidu Inc. has entered into such a commercial deal with a pharmaceutical company.
The French firm, Sanofi, before the pandemic, had been one of the world’s biggest vaccine makers. However, it was beaten by rivals Moderna and BioNTech /Pfizer in developing mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
According to reports, Sanofi in September had stopped trials of its own mRNA COVID-19 shot and is instead said to be focusing on efforts with GlaxoSmithKline to bring another COVID-19 vaccine candidate to market. The new vaccine will be based on rather more conventional protein-based approach.
The drugmaker mentioned that it would focus its mRNA resources on other infectious diseases and therapeutics with strong unmet needs.
Baidu scientist leading the project, Huang Liang commented that the tech company will receive landmark payments when any mRNA-based therapy or vaccine candidate discovered by Sanofi using its algorithm enters clinical trials, as per their agreement.
He further mentioned that the fact that this agreement includes hefty payments shows that the French drugmaker has great confidence in bringing candidates developed with Baidu algorithm into clinical trials and to the market.
An mRNA-based vaccine contains mRNA sequence that instructs human cells to produce proteins that can spur the immune system into action.
Huang also mentioned that their company’s algorithm is designed to deliver a larger number of optimized mRNA sequences.
According to lab studies and animal tests, with regards to new COVID-19 vaccine candidates, those containing mRNA sequences generated by the company’s algorithm were found to be more stable and appeared to require a smaller dosage, compared to a baseline dose based on a standard algorithm.
The National Health Commission on Tuesday reported China to have administered about 5.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines on Nov.22, thus bringing total doses to 2.443 billion.