AstraZeneca enters deal to manufacture University of Oxford's potential COVID-19 vaccine

AstraZeneca entered into an agreement for the global development and distribution of the University of Oxford's potential recombinant adenovirus vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection from SARS-CoV-2, the parties announced Thursday. As part of the deal, the UK drugmaker would also be responsible for worldwide manufacturing of the vaccine, dubbed ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

Last week, the first two patients were dosed in Phase I studies of the vaccine, which uses a viral vector containing the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, with results potentially available next month, before advancing into late-stage trials by the middle of the year. Recently, University of Oxford researchers said that large-scale production capacity was being put in place on an "at risk" basis, with a target to produce a million doses as early as September.

On Thursday, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot suggested that results over the next few months will show whether ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 will be effective or not. "By June, July we will already have a very good idea of the direction of travel in terms of its potential efficacy," Soriot remarked, adding "we'll continue working with the Oxford Vaccine Unit to bring it to patients and to regulatory authorities first of all as soon as possible."

Soriot indicated that the partnership is looking to produce 100 million doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 by the end of the year and prioritise supply in the UK. The executive explained that AstraZeneca plans to rely on contract manufacturing organisations and other partners, while boosting its own production capacity. Soriot added that under the deal with the University of Oxford and the UK government, "for the period of the pandemic we will be supplying the vaccine at cost.

Researchers at the University of Oxford are currently collaborating with a number of manufacturing partners around the world, including three in the UK, two in Europe, one in India and one in China. Last week, the Serum Institute of India said it plans to start production of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in the next two to three weeks, with the aim to initially produce 5 million doses per month.

The announcement comes shortly after sources suggested that the US is organising a project, dubbered "Operation Warp Speed," in an effort to drastically cut the time needed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, with a goal to have 100 million doses ready by the end of the year. For related analysis, see ViewPoints: COVID-19 vaccines in focus.

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