As the fast-moving COVID-19 pandemic is starting to take a heavy toll on medical staff and facilities around the world, some areas are now near a breaking point. Many of our own people with medical training have volunteered or been enlisted to help those working on the front lines and treat critically ill patients. We fully support their contribution and have put measures in place to ensure their safety as well as that of all our employees, their families, and our communities.
Sanofi is collaborating with global governments and health agencies to develop a vaccine against the virus, while also testing treatment options using existing medicines, and we are working to maintain continuous access to all of the essential medicines we produce for patients.
We Are Leveraging Our Expertise in Vaccine Development
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines global business unit of Sanofi, is collaborating with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, to leverage previous work on a SARS vaccine and its recombinant vaccine platform to unlock a fast path forward for developing a vaccine to beat COVID-19; the virus that causes COVID-19 disease belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS, which can cause respiratory disease.
In practical terms, this means that research and clinical material could be produced relatively quickly. We are currently working with Protein Sciences, a Sanofi company, which previously worked on the development of a SARS vaccine, and are also cooperating with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which coordinates the development of future vaccines against targeted epidemic pathogens identified by the World Health Organization.
We estimate that we will have a vaccine candidate available for in vitro testing within six months and potentially enter clinical trials within a year and a half.
We Are Exploring Alternative Treatment Options
We are researching whether some of our existing products may be potential treatment options, and have already started, in collaboration with Regeneron, a clinical program evaluating one treatment option with patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19.
We Are Working to Avoid Shortages
As of today, we are working to maintain the supply of all our medicines and vaccines, critical for patients with other illnesses and to maintain public health, through close collaboration with our suppliers throughout the world. Our global industrial network is operational, including France, China and Italy, and the diversity of our sourcing allows for business continuity across all our medicines for the time being.
We also remain fully committed to the patients in our clinical trials and currently are largely able to maintain continuity of our ongoing studies and treatment of patients in these studies.
We are Working to Maintain our Clinical Trials
Sixty percent of our approximately 300 ongoing clinical studies are in the recruiting stage. We are in close contact with clinical trial sites to provide support and guidance to ensure the safety of the patients in our trials. We have prioritized our drug supply operations to secure the re-supply of patients currently enrolled in our studies, and we are leveraging our distribution partners and local clinical study units to anticipate customs challenges that could emerge as a result of the crisis. In addition, targeted direct-to-patient (DTP) drug supply is being implemented on a case-by-case basis.
In China, in the course of February, less than 10 percent of our patients in clinical trials experienced treatment interruption, thanks to our close collaboration with sites, and a DTP approach. Obviously, we are observing a slowdown in the recruitment in our studies, particularly in countries which are the most impacted by COVID-19, and in disease areas such as respiratory disease studies which could take hospital resources away from the current emergency. We retain the same pragmatic approach for new studies, prioritizing indications with high medical need, and understanding that each trials site will make its own decision about whether to start a new study based on the country situation.
We Are Ensuring the Safety of Our Employees
We have implemented science-based recommendations to stop the spread of COVID-19 in all of our operations to protect the health of our employees and their families. Our global crisis committee is actively working to help prevent employee exposure to the virus while continuously monitoring the potential impact on our business activities. Local crisis teams are also working in different countries to manage local realities in closer proximity to employees.
Sanofi is continually assessing the global health implications of this pandemic–and our role in addressing this challenge–and we remain committed to working closely with global health organizations and governments to minimize the risk and impact of the COVID-19 virus.