Sanofi (NASDAQ:SNY) is teaming up with the U.S. government in its attempt to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the government will support those efforts, although financial details of the agreement weren't disclosed.

Protein Sciences, which Sanofi acquired in 2017, has a bit of a head start, having worked on a vaccine for SARS, which is caused by another coronavirus. That treatment didn't get off the ground because SARS petered out just a couple of years after it emerged in 2002, but preclinical work showed that Sanofi's SARS vaccine candidate produced partial protection in animals challenged with the virus.

People on the sidewalk wearing face masks

Image source: Getty Images.

Rather than growing a virus and then making it inactive to produce a vaccine, Sanofi's vaccine technology uses DNA from the virus to produce proteins found on its surface, which can then be used to stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies against the virus itself. Not only is this a potentially quicker way to develop vaccines,  this technique also makes it easier to produce those vaccines in large quantities.

Sanofi is just one of a host of drug companies hunting for a COVID-19 vaccine. BARDA is also supporting Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE:JNJ) efforts. Last month, Inovio Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:INO) received a $9 million grant from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the biotech has already disclosed it has a candidate vaccine that it hopes to move into clinical trials as early as this summer. Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) could also be in the hunt, although the vaccine expert hasn't jumped on the bandwagon publicly with press releases on the subject.

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