[Ip-health] Eric Sagonowsky: Amid dustup over taxpayer-funded research, Sanofi executive says it never rejected a Zika vaccine fair pricing request

Kim Treanor kim.treanor at keionline.org
Fri Jul 14 13:34:27 PDT 2017


Amid dustup over taxpayer-funded research, Sanofi executive says it never
rejected a Zika vaccine fair pricing request
Eric Sagonowsky on 14 July 2017

After taking a beating in countless press reports over its Zika vaccine
partnership with the U.S. Army, Sanofi is hoping to clear the air. In a
series of letters to a U.S. Army official and U.S. senators, executives
said Sanofi never rejected a fair pricing proposal.

“While it is unclear what or who is the source of this information, Sanofi
Pasteur did not reject a specific fair-pricing term proposed by WRAIR as
part of the licensing negotiations,” Sanofi Pasteur head David Loew wrote
in six separate letters to senators, referring to the Walter Reed Army
Institute of Research.

Loew went on to say that the research partners “discussed pricing in
general,” but “recognized it is premature to set pricing terms at this
stage for a technology that will require substantial financial and
intellectual capital with no guarantee of a marketable vaccine.”
Negotiations for the license remain ongoing.

The claim is in contrast to numerous press reports that the drugmaker
balked at a fair pricing request, generating a firestorm of negative
publicity. Sanofi posted the letters on its website Friday. Among the
senators on the receiving end were Richard Blumenthal, Sherrod Brown and
Richard Durbin.

Sanofi partnered with the Army’s WRAID last summer to work on the vaccine.
As Loew notes, after the institute issued an open call for partners, his
company was the only group to submit a licensing application for the

Loew wrote to the senators in response to their June correspondence to
Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt, when the lawmakers said it’s
“incomprehensible” the French drugmaker would seek an exclusive license on
the vaccine without a pricing assurance. The senators called for a public
hearing to sort out the details.

The U.S. government announced its intention to license the vaccine
technology last December. Soon after, nonprofits such as Knowledge Ecology
International urged pricing assurances on the vaccine given that taxpayers
helped fund its development.

Those calls gained strength when Sen. Bernie Sanders wrote a New York Times
op-ed saying the Trump Administration should cancel the “bad deal.” Sanofi
R&D head Elias Zerhouni responded with his own op-ed in the same newspaper
defending the partnership.

In response to KEI’s request, the Army said it’s not feasible to “define,
implement and enforce 'affordable prices' or to set price controls for a
potential vaccine that will require great investment and face high risk of
failure." On Friday, KEI director Jamie Love said the U.S. Army has "told
senate staffers that Sanofi indicated it would walk away from the license
if there was a provision on reasonable pricing."

So far, Sanofi has received $43 million in government support for the
project, with another $130 million potentially available if testing
advances. The vaccine technology, which Sanofi says is among the best Zika
prospects out there, was initially developed by Army scientists.

In a separate letter (PDF) to an Army official, Sanofi Pasteur Senior
Director of Business Development Gavin Zealey reiterated that the company
remains a focused partner in the project.

Other pharma players GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda have partnered with the
U.S. government on Zika vaccine work, and dozens of other candidates are in
various stages of development. Sanofi has maintained that, even if it’s
granted an exclusive license—and if the vaccine reaches the market—that
wouldn’t preclude other groups from developing their own vaccines and
competing on price.


Kim Treanor
Knowledge Ecology International
kim.treanor at keionline.org
tel.: +1.202.332.2670

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