AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are teaming up to develop and manufacture a vaccine for coronavirus with the aim of building capacity to produce 100m doses by the end of the year if it is shown to be effective.
Under the agreement, the company would be responsible for the development and worldwide manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCov-19.
“We want to be ready to launch and supply up to 100m doses by the end of the year and then expand from there,” Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca chief executive told the FT. He said the building of supply capacity would prioritise the UK and populations at risk.
Currently being developed by Oxford university, the vaccine candidate entered phase-one testing last week. Data from this phase could be available as early as next month, with further clinical stages potentially taking place by the middle of this year.
Mr Soriot said: “This collaboration brings together the University of Oxford’s world-class expertise in vaccinology and AstraZeneca’s global development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities.
“Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.”
Financial terms for the Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership were not disclosed, but the two have a longstanding relationship to advance basic research.
The tie-up comes amid a race to find a vaccine and governments are already petitioning companies to secure first access when one is ready. Donald Trump, the US president, tried to buy the rights for a potential vaccine candidate made in Germany last month.
Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline chief executive, said it would be necessary to have more than one vaccine to meet demand. The company is also developing a potential vaccine candidate with Sanofi of France, among other possible interventions.
Vaccine makers have considerably shortened development times from years to months in the hope of finding a way out of the pandemic as soon as possible. But experts have repeatedly warned that the development of a vaccine alone would not be enough — there would also need to be sufficient manufacturing capacity to deliver it to billions of people around the world.
Shares in AstraZeneca rose 1.9 per cent in early London trade.