French pharma company Sanofi has announced that it will invest €400m annually into a new facility focused solely on the development and delivery of next-generation mRNA-based vaccines.

The mRNA ‘centre of excellence’ will employee approximately 400 staff in a bid to integrate end-to-end mRNA vaccine capabilities.

This will include bringing together dedicated research & development, digital and chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC) teams, working across sites based in the US and France.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA technologies demonstrated potential to deliver new vaccines faster than ever before,” said Jean-Francois Toussaint, global head of research and development, Sanofi Pasteur.

“However, key areas of innovation such as thermostability and tolerability improvements will be critical to unlock the applications of mRNA in routine vaccination against a broader set of infectious diseases and across all ages. The Sanofi mRNA vaccines Centre of Excellence aims to lead the field in this next chapter of vaccine innovation,” he added.

In particular, Sanofi said that the facility will help to accelerate the mRNA vaccines portfolio developed as part of its collaboration with Translate Bio, which was initially announced in 2018.

In June 2020, Sanofi paid $300m upfront to expand its partnership with Translate Bio to develop mRNA vaccines for infectious diseases, including a COVID-19 vaccine.

Under the expanded deal, Translate Bio received a total upfront payment of $425 million, consisting of a $300 million cash payment and a private placement common stock investment of $125 million at $25.59 per share, representing a 50% premium to the 20-day moving average share price prior to signing.

Translate Bio will also be eligible for potential future milestones and other payments up to $1.9 billion, including $450 million of milestones under the 2018 agreement.