Sanofi-Pasteur this morning revealed it has joined forces with the French government to provide 1.4 million doses of an investigational vaccine designed to prevent bird flu, caused by the H5N1 influenza virus, as part of a pre-pandemic strategy. The agreement also commits Sanofi-Pasteur to providing sufficient vaccine to treat 28 million people should a pandemic be declared and the strain responsible be identified.

The company has been scrabbling to get a vaccine ready should a pandemic strike; the World Health Organisation has suggested bird flu could wipe out millions of people if the virus mutates to a highly-transmissible form and has urged countries to ensure sufficient stockpiles of medicines and vaccines.

Sanofi-Pasteur’s vaccine against H5N1 is currently being trialed at three sites across France, with results anticipated by the end of the year. The company will then pursue a so-called “mock-up” registration file for submission to Europe’s regulatory authority to speed up its entry onto the market in case of a pandemic.