Long-time pharma rivals unite to fight a common enemy: COVID-19

Credit: Alexander Wells
Credit: Alexander Wells

In the age of Covid-19, old adversaries are uniting around a common enemy: the new coronavirus. Their nascent partnership is now visible in everything from trials to research to manufacturing. Glaxo and eight other pharmaceutical firms even took the rare step of issuing a joint pledge last month to seek regulatory approvals for their vaccines only after proving their safety and effectiveness in large, final-stage clinical trials.

The most common area of cooperation thus far is manufacturing. Some longtime rivals are striking deals to stretch their capacity to meet anticipated demand. Roche Holding AG is helping manufacture an antiviral drug in development by rival RegeneronAmgen Inc. will help make Eli Lilly & Co.’s antiviral drugs if the treatments are authorized by regulators. Pfizer has dedicated manufacturing capacity to turning out doses of remdesivir, an antiviral made by rival Gilead Sciences Inc.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Genetically modified plants could produce drugs of the future—if we do more to encourage 'pharming'

The camaraderie also extends to the traditionally cutthroat realm of research. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. scientists contributed to research on a vaccine in development by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc., and were co-authors on a paper this summer detailing the results.

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“When you’re facing a public-health crisis there is no team with a blue T-shirt and a team with an orange T-shirt. Very quickly, there was only one team,” [Sanofi’s Thomas] Triomphe said.

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