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Sanofi's mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate not ready this year-CEO

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PARIS, Feb 13 (Reuters) - A COVID-19 vaccine candidatedeveloped by Sanofi and U.S. group Translate Bio"will not be ready this year," the French drugmaker'schief executive told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Clinical trials of this vaccine, which will be based on atechnology known as mRNA -- on which lean approved vaccines ofPfizer/BioNTech and Moderna --, areexpected to start this quarter.

In December last year, Sanofi had said it was targeting"earliest potential approval" of the shot in the second half of2021, following positive preclinical data.

"This vaccine will not be ready this year, but it could beof use at a later stage all the more if the fight againstvariants was to continue," Paul Hudson was quoted as saying.

The CEO gave no other details. Officials at Sanofi were notavailable for comment.

The news could mark another blow for Sanofi, alreadyembattled with a delay for another COVID-19 vaccine candidate ithopes to bring to patients and for which the company has teamedup with Britain's GlaxoSmithKline.

The two groups stunned investors last year by warning theirtraditional, protein-based COVID-19 jab showed an insufficientimmune response in older people, delaying its launch towards theend of 2021.

To appease critics, Sanofi said last month it had agreed tofill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccinefrom July.

Some 108 million people have been reported to be infected bythe novel coronavirus globally and more than 2.4 million havedied since first cases were identified in China in December2019, according to a Reuters tally.

Countries worldwide have since the beginning of the yearembarked on mass vaccination programmes, with mixed results, andare now confronted with the emergence of several variant strainswhich forces them to move even more quickly.(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Dominique Vidalon)