Sanofi has announced plans to leverage some of its previous development work for a SARS vaccine, hoping to unlock a fast path forward for developing a coronavirus - also known as COVID-19 - vaccine.

As part of the plan, the company will collaborate with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, expanding the company’s long-standing partnership with BARDA.

Sanofi claims it will use its recombinant DNA platform to produce a 2019 novel candidate, and that the recombinant technology produces an exact genetic match to proteins found on the surface of the virus.

The DNA sequence encoding this antigen will be combined into the DNA of the baculovirus expression platform, the basis of Sanofi’s licensed recombinant influenza product, and used to rapidly produce large quantities of the coronavirus antigen which will be formulated to stimulate the immune system to protect against the virus.

“Addressing a global health threat such as this newest coronavirus is going to take a collaborative effort, which is why we are working with BARDA to quickly advance a potential vaccine candidate,” said David Loew, global head of vaccines at Sanofi.

“While we are lending our expertise where possible, we believe the collaboration with BARDA may provide the most meaningful results in protecting the public from this latest outbreak.”

In recent weeks Johnson & Johnson (J&J) also announced a “multi-pronged” response to the virus, which included efforts to broadly collaborate with others in order to screen a library of antiviral therapies, hoping to identify compounds with antiviral activity against the virus.

Using its AdVac and PER.C6 technologies - the same technologies that were used in the development and manufacturing of Janssen's investigational Ebola vaccine - J&J revealed plans to also try and rapidly upscale production of the optimal vaccine candidate.

GSK is also lending a hand, making its established pandemic vaccine adjuvant platform technology available to enhance the development of a much-needed vaccine.

The news comes at the same time as media reports have revealed a death toll of over 2,000 from the epidemic globally, with over 75,000 people infected in total. Further, more than 1,000 people have now been infected with the virus outside mainland China and China's Health Commission has announced 136 new deaths since Monday.

COVID-19 belongs to a family of coronaviruses that can cause respiratory disease, similar to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus that emerged in late 2002 and then largely disappeared by 2004.