July 31 (UPI) -- European drugmakers Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Friday they will receive funding from the U.S. government to aid in the development and manufacture of their COVID-19 vaccine.
The funding is part of Operation Warp Speed, under which the departments of Health and Human Services and Defense are assembling a portfolio of vaccines with the goal finding at least one safe and effective vaccine.
The vaccine candidate is based on recombinant protein technology used by Sanofi to produce an influenza vaccine and GSK's pandemic adjuvant technology.
"The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "Today's investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people."
The $2.1 billion deal with Sanofi and GSK is the largest yet for Operation Warp Speed, exceeding a $1.6 billion grant given to Novavax earlier this month.
Paris-based Sanofi was already working with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority on a vaccine.
Sanofi Executive Vice President Thomas Triomphe said most of the government funds will pay for clinical trials and scale up manufacturing capabilities to deliver 100 million doses.
"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," Triomphe said.
Sanofi and GSK said they expect a study of their candidate to start in September, followed by a larger study by the end of the year. If results are positive, the companies will request U.S. regulatory approval in the first half of 2021.
The companies have also signed a deal with the British government to provide as many as 60 million doses and are planning to deliver one billion doses worldwide next year.