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Covid-19: Pharma giant on board to manufacture as yet unproven Oxford vaccine

Human trials of the vaccine began last week.

The move will allow for rapid vaccination around the world if the candidate proves to be effective.
The move will allow for rapid vaccination around the world if the candidate proves to be effective.
Image: DPA/PA Images

THE UNIVERSITY OF Oxford has partnered with pharmaceutical giant AstraZenenca for the development, manufacture and large-scale distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate that is currently being trialled in the UK.

The agreement was announced today, with the details set to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The move will allow for rapid vaccination around the world if the candidate proves to be effective, the university said.

Human trials of the vaccine developed by the University’s Jenner Institute began last week, with hundreds of people volunteering to be part of the study which received £20 million in government funding.

Professor John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University described the partnership with AstraZeneca as a “major force in the struggle against pandemics” for the foreseeable future.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Bell said he hoped that some results from a human trial of the vaccine would be available by the middle of June.

He told Today that the challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once it is approved by the regulators.

The professor added: “We also want to make sure that the rest of the world will be ready to make this vaccine at scale so that it gets to populations in developing countries, for example, where the need is very great.

We really need a partner to do that and that partner has a big job in the UK because our manufacturing capacity in the UK for vaccines isn’t where it needs to be, and so we are going to work together with AstraZeneca to improve that considerably.

It is the first such partnership to be formed since the UK government launched the Vaccines Taskforce two weeks ago to help find a new coronavirus vaccine.

Both partners have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic, the university said, with only the costs of production and distribution being covered.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said that investment in a new coronavirus vaccine is a risk worth taking for his company.

“It is definitely a risk to launch into development of this vaccine, but now is the time to take those risks – this is a terrible crisis we’re facing, and we need solutions,” he told same programme.

“A vaccine of course is the number one tool we can bring to manage this epidemic.”

Soriot said the company should know “relatively soon” if the vaccine will work, adding: “By June, July, we will already have a pretty good idea of the direction of travel in terms of its potential efficacy.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “hugely welcome news” that Oxford University had come to an agreement with AstraZeneca to scale up its coronavirus vaccine.

He tweeted: “The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced in the world. Bringing together the best British science and the best of British business will give us the best possible shot at a vaccine.

“The science is uncertain, and no vaccine may work, but this deal gives the UK the best chance we can of a breakthrough that could defeat this awful virus. I’m sending best wishes for good fortune to all involved – for the sake of the nation and indeed the whole world.”

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