Coronavirus vaccine: AstraZeneca ‘on track’ to roll out potential vaccine in September

On Friday the chief executive of British pharma giant Mr. Pascal Soriot said,”AstraZeneca is “on track” to begin rolling out up to two billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine in September if ongoing trials prove successful”.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca said, it has partnered with Serum Institute of India to supply 1 billion doses of University of Oxford’s potential coronavirus vaccine to low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). Serum will provide 400 million doses before the end of 2020.

Highlights:

  • 2 billion doses of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine will be available after a new deal of $750m from Bill Gates
  • Serum will provide 400 million doses low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) before the end of 2020.
  • There is no guaranty that the vaccine will work.
  • The vaccine, named AZD1222, was originally developed by Oxford University in the U.K.
AstraZeneca’s Head office in Luton, Britain.
AstraZeneca’s Head office in Luton, Britain.

“So far we’re still on track… we are starting to manufacture this vaccine right now, and we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results,” Mr. Soriot added.
“Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August. So in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine or not.” The firm announced this week it had struck agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and the Serum Institute of India to double production capacity of the COVID-19 vaccine to two billion doses.

The partnership with the Indian institute -one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers — will help supply it to a large number of low- and middle-income countries. AstraZeneca has established separate supply chains for the vaccine in Europe, the United States, India and is also looking at setting up production in China, Soriot said.

“We believe we can get the vaccine to hundreds of millions of people around the world, importantly, including those in the countries with the lowest income. So our goal is really to not leave anybody behind,”  Pascal Soriot in a BBC Radio interview.

Oxford University began initial trials of its COVID-19 vaccine with hundreds of volunteers in April, and is now expanding them to 10,000 participants.

The significance of the partnership is that if all goes according to plan, millions of Indians will get their hands on COVID-19 vaccine shots produced by Serum well before the end of 2020. The company is partnering with Oxford University, which has pioneered the vaccine, and is already manufacturing doses before seeking final regulatory approval once testing concludes in the coming months.

Besides securing a licence to mass produce the University of Oxford vaccine, Serum has built an alliance with US biotech firm Codagenix. The latter will develop a live-attenuated vaccine (a weakened virus that doesn’t cause disease but triggers immune response) to fight COVID-19, and Serum will invest in clinical trials, manufacturing and distribution.

Serum has also tied up with Austrian biotech company Themis Bioscience for another COVID-19 vaccine candidate that uses measles virus as a vector to inject an antigen or protein of SARS-CoV-2.

Serum also signed a pact with Novavax. The Indian company sold its Czech Republic-based Praha Vaccines for roughly $167 million to Novavax. Novavax is an American vaccine developer, which will produce a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in that facility. Serum and Novavax have partnered for a malaria vaccine and though it is still not clear whether Serum will extend the partnership to a COVID-19 vaccine. The possibility can’t be ruled out. Serum’s BCG vaccine is being used in trials in Australia and Germany to find out whether it helps in preventing people from acquiring COVID-19.

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