US-based biotechnology company Novavax and French pharmaceutical company Sanofi have signed a co-exclusive licensing agreement to enhance access to protein-based Covid-19 vaccine, starting from 2025.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sanofi obtains a co-exclusive license to co-commercialise Novavax’s current stand-alone adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine worldwide.

The license excludes countries such as India, Japan, and South Korea where Novavax has existing advance purchase agreements.

The French drugmaker also gets an exclusive license to Novavax’s adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine for use in combination with its flu vaccines.

Also, it will obtain a non-exclusive license to its Matrix-M adjuvant in vaccine products and will make a minority equity investment in Novavax.

Novavax retains the right to its Covid-19-Influenza combination vaccine candidate.

Sanofi vaccines R&D global head Jean-Francois Toussaint said: “With flu and Covid-19 hospital admission rates now closely mirroring each other, we have an opportunity to develop non-mRNA flu-Covid-19 combination vaccines, offering patients both enhanced convenience and protection against two serious respiratory viruses.

“We`re excited by the prospect of combining Novavax`s adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine which has shown high efficacy and favourable tolerability, with our rich portfolio of differentiated flu vaccines that have demonstrated superior protection against flu and its serious complications.

“Improved tolerability and thermostability, without compromise on efficacy, are what regulators, recommending bodies and patients will demand.”

Novavax will receive up to $1.2bn in cash, including $500m in upfront payment and up to $700m in development, regulatory and launch milestones.

Sanofi will be responsible for developing and marketing any novel flu-Covid-19 combination vaccine containing a Sanofi flu vaccine.

Novavax will receive tiered royalty on Sanofi’s Covid-19 and Covid-19-flu combination vaccine sales.

It is entitled to receive additional launch and sales milestone payments of up to $200m, plus royalties for each additional Sanofi vaccine developed using Matrix-M adjuvant technology.

Furthermore, Novavax and Sanofi may develop their own Covid-19-Influenza combination vaccines and adjuvanted products outside of the collaboration at their own cost.

Novavax president and CEO John Jacobs said: “This collaboration is important for Novavax and for global public health. Our new partnership combines Novavax`s proprietary recombinant protein and nanoparticle technologies, Matrix adjuvant and R&D expertise with Sanofi`s world-class leadership in launching and commercialising innovative vaccines.

“Together, we can broaden access to both our Covid-19 vaccine and our adjuvant to ensure more individuals can benefit from the protection vaccines can provide.

“Novavax is now in a stronger position to refocus our efforts on leveraging our technology platform and novel adjuvant in R&D and pipeline expansion to help advance our mission of developing life-saving vaccines to fight infectious diseases.”