The European Union has reached an agreement with French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi for the supply of 300 million doses of the potential coronavirus vaccine, the bloc's executive arm announced on Friday.
The deal will allow all 27 member-nations to purchase the vaccine once it is proven to be safe and effective.
"While we do not know today which vaccine will work best in the end, Europe is investing in a diversified portfolio of promising vaccines, based on various types of technologies," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
"This increases our chances to obtain rapidly an effective remedy against the virus. A vaccine would be a truly global good," she said.
The European Commission, armed with an emergency fund of €2 billion ($2.4 billion), wants to strike similar deals with up to six pharmaceutical companies in a bid to procure vaccines for its 450 million citizens.
Sanofi's potential vaccine is being developed in partnership with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The two firms aim to combine the Sanofi-developed antigen, which stimulates the production of antibodies, with GSK's adjuvant technology which bolsters the immune response triggered by a vaccine.
"The (vaccine) doses would be manufactured in European countries including France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy," the companies said in a statement. "This marks a key milestone in protecting and serving the European population against COVID-19."
The two firms said clinical trials for their vaccine should start in September, with a phase 3 study underway by the end of the year.
Earlier this week, both companies also announced a deal with the UK for 60 million doses.
US to bankroll Sanofi, GSK vaccine
The United States will pay $2.1 billion to Sanofi and GSK for the development and manufacture of a COVID-19 vaccine as part of 'Operation Warp Speed,' the White House initiative to secure access to millions of doses.
The deal is for 100 million doses which will cover 50 million people, 2 per person, and gives the US government an option to purchase 500 million additional doses at an unspecified price.
"The US government will provide up to $2.1 billion, more than half of which is to support further development of the vaccine, including clinical trials," the companies said in a statement.
The US funding " will help fund the development activities and secure scale-up of Sanofi’s and GSK’s manufacturing capabilities in the United States," they said. "Sanofi will receive the majority of the U.S. government funding."