(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Sanofi SA said on Tuesday they would develop a vaccine to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The drugmakers said they expect to start clinical trials for the vaccine in the second half of this year. If successful, the vaccine would be available in the second half of 2021.

The announcement comes at a time when drugmakers are pausing clinical trials for other disease areas as they focus on testing potential treatments for the coronavirus.

The adjuvanted vaccine will be developed by combining Sanofi’s S-protein COVID-19 antigen and GSK’s pandemic adjuvant technology.

Adjuvants are efficacy boosters that play a vital role in many vaccines. An adjuvant is added to some vaccines to enhance the immune response, and has been shown to create a stronger and longer lasting immunity against infections than the vaccine alone.

The companies said they have also entered into a material transfer agreement, allowing them to start working together immediately.

Earlier on Tuesday, UK-based GSK’s domestic rival AstraZeneca Plc said it would start a clinical trial of its cancer drug, Calquence, to assess its potential to control the exaggerated immune system response associated with COVID-19 infection in severely ill patients.

(Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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