The University of Oxford inked an alliance with UK-based AstraZeneca to facilitate the further development and scalable production of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 presently under investigation via clinical trials. Could this deal be a harbinger of good things to come? After all, if one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies signs up for a global development and distribution deal centering on the potential recombinant adenovirus vaccine targeting SARS-CoV-2—the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemicthe upside for all becomes big. An actual vaccine targeting COVID-19. The world will be a better place if this works.

What was announced?

A development and distribution agreement where AstraZeneca will pair with University of Oxford for a global development and distribution agreement for the prominent academic institution’s top SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. This vaccine has been developed by specialized units within Oxford known as the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group.

What is AstraZeneca’s Role?

They will be responsible for development and worldwide manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine. This represents an enormous upside for the company if this vaccine works.

Why did the parties choose now?

Well the vaccine is not proven but there is apparently enough data that the UK-based pharma made the decision to make the move and put a partnership together. With the pharma’s global development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities coupled with Oxford’s world-class vaccinology expertise—in the context of the ongoing raging pandemic—it made sense to move forward and commit. The parties seek to accelerate the effort now—to save lives first and foremost. Already over 60,000 have died in America in this generational crisis.

Are there synergies between the two?

Yes. The parties are both out of the UK and “have a longstanding relationship to advance basic research,” reported Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President BioPharmaceuticals R&D AstraZeneca. UK’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma suggested, “This collaboration between Oxford University and AstraZeneca is a vital step that could hep rapidly advance the manufacture of a coronavirus vaccine. It will also ensure that, should the vaccine being developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute work, it will be available as early as possible, helping to protect thousands of lives from this disease.” Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University topped this off, saying, “Our partnership with AstraZeneca will be a major force in the struggle against pandemics for years to come…”

What is the vaccine’s status?

The vaccine entered Phase I clinical trials last week to study safety and efficacy in healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years, across five trial centers in Southern England. Data from the Phase I trial could be available next month (May). Advancement to late-stage trials should take place by the middle of this year.

What is ChAdOx1 nCoV-19?

Developed at the University’s of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, and working with the Oxford Vaccine Group, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 uses a viral vector based on a weakened version of the common cold (adenovirus) containing the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, which primes the human system to attack COVID-19 if it later infects the body.

The recombinant adenovirus vector (ChAdOx1) was selected to generate a strong immune response from a single dose and it is not replicating, so cannot cause an ongoing infection in the vaccinated individual. Vaccines made from the ChAdOx1 virus have been given to over 320 people to date and have been shown to be safe and well tolerated, although they can cause temporary side effects such as temperature, flu-like symptoms, headache or sore arm.

AstraZeneca Profile

Traded under symbol AZN, the global science-led biopharma focuses on the discovery, development and commercialization of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three therapy areas including 1) Oncology 2) Cardiovascular and Renal and Metabolism and 3) Respiratory and Immunology. Based in the UK, they operate in 100 countries. According to one ranking, AstraZeneca is ranked 14th of all big “biopharma” worldwide at $14.5 billion in annual revenue.

Historically the company is a British and Swedish concern—founded in 1913 as Astra AB in Sweden by 400 doctors and apothecaries. 

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Source: AstraZeneca

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