By Noemie Bisserbe and Denise Roland 

PARIS -- The office of President Emmanuel Macron summoned the management of Sanofi SA to a meeting next week, according to a French official, after the French pharmaceutical company's chief executive said the U.S. was first in line to receive any coronavirus vaccine it develops.

Mr. Macron was upset, a French official said, over comments that Sanofi Chief Executive Paul Hudson made to Bloomberg News on Wednesday, saying coronavirus patients in the U.S. could expect any doses of a vaccine first, because the U.S. had funded Sanofi's research and development. "That's how it will be because they've invested to try and protect their population, to restart their economy," Mr. Hudson said.

The race for a vaccine is taking on increasingly nationalistic tones, with some countries regarding it as a matter of national security. The toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on countries' health and economic systems has made getting access to a vaccine -- widely considered the only exit strategy from the pandemic -- a priority for governments around the world.

"A vaccine against Covid-19 should be a public good for the world," Prime Minister Édouard Philippe wrote on Twitter on Thursday, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Mr. Philippe added he had spoken to Sanofi's chairman, Serge Weinberg, who assured him of the distribution in France of any Sanofi vaccine.

"Evidently, if Sanofi makes a breakthrough on a vaccine for Covid-19 and it is efficient, it will be made available to all," Olivier Bogillot, the chairman of Sanofi's French unit, said Thursday.

The U.S. warned this week that China and Iran were attempting to steal intellectual property related to vaccine development in cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies and health-care and academic institutions. The U.K., too, has said it has raised cybersecurity defenses at a number of universities, including Oxford, to protect vaccine research.

The pandemic has already triggered tension, including among allies, over access to more basic needs, such as masks and protective gear.

The overwhelming global demand for any successful vaccine will face supply constraints, raising questions about how doses would be allocated across the globe. The World Health Organization is pushing for a global agreement aimed at ensuring fair access to any vaccine, and several countries -- including France, the U.K. and Germany -- have pledged their support. But the details are yet to be worked out, and will have to address difficult questions around how much funding each country provides and how supply would be prioritized across the globe.

European countries are also discussing how to create a mechanism that would ensure countries world-wide get access to any vaccine in a timely manner, an aide to Mr. Macron said.

Sanofi is one of the biggest competitors in a field of more than 100 coronavirus-vaccine candidates. Its vaccine is viewed as one of the most promising, in part because it is based on a technology used in an already-approved flu vaccine, and because Sanofi is one of the few groups world-wide with the manufacturing capacity to eventually churn out hundreds of millions of doses a year.

Early on in its development, Sanofi's vaccine project received a $30 million research grant from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an office of the U.S. government responsible for preparing the nation against public-health threats such as pandemics and bioterrorism. That grant is helping to fund the early research and development of the vaccine, allowing it to reach the stage of being tested in people.

The U.S. has no formal claim on the first doses of vaccine to be manufactured. But Sanofi's agreement with Barda will speed vaccine production at the company's U.S. plants, and that supply will mainly go to Americans, according to a company statement. There is no equivalent to Barda in Europe.

The statement added that Sanofi is "committed to make our vaccine accessible to everyone" and that the company is in talks with various European governments, including France, about vaccine development and access. It added that it also has vaccine plants in Europe and the rest of the world.

Write to Noemie Bisserbe at noemie.bisserbe@wsj.com and Denise Roland at Denise.Roland@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 14, 2020 16:31 ET (20:31 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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