AstraZeneca nets $205m Covid antibody deal with US government
Cambridge Big Biotech AstraZeneca has modified an existing agreement with the US government to supply up to 500,000 additional doses of AZD7442 – a long-acting antibody (LAAB) combination in late-stage development for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
The $205 million deal with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense builds on an agreement from October 2020 for the support of the late-stage development of AZD7442 and supply of an initial 100,000 doses of the LAAB combination.
It included the option to acquire additional doses in 2021. AstraZeneca also has a separate accord to supply the DoD with 100,000 doses, bringing potential US supplies of AZD7442 to 700,000 in 2021.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s CEO, said: “The long-acting antibody combination has the potential to offer almost immediate protection to those who are not able to be vaccinated, to both prevent infection or treat the disease in patients already infected with the virus.
“The US government’s support is critical in helping accelerate the development of AZD7442, which we believe will be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19.”
Together, the total value of all current agreements with the US Government for the development and supply of AZD7442 in 2021 is around $726m.
Data published in Nature in July 2020 showed that in pre-clinical experiments the LAABs were able to block the binding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to host cells and protect against infection in cell and animal models of disease.
On the vaccines front, the World Health Organization was meeting at the time of going to press on Tuesday to assess whether countries have been right to suspend supplies of the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab for fear it had led to blood cots and five deaths.
Around a dozen countries had suspended supply of the vaccine at the time of writing but scientists globally, as well as WHO and the European Medicines Agency, initially felt the fears were groundless and said the vaccinations should continue. They added that blood clots could be caused by Covid itself.
AstraZeneca issued the strongest possible reassurance on the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine “based on clear scientific evidence.”
A firmly worded statement said: “A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and UK with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country.
“So far across the EU and UK, there have been 15 events of DVT and 22 events of pulmonary embolism reported among those given the vaccine, based on the number of cases the company had received as of March 8.”
The company’s chief medical officer, Ann Taylor said: “Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received our vaccine and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population.
“The nature of the pandemic has led to increased attention in individual cases and we are going beyond the standard practices for safety monitoring of licensed medicines in reporting vaccine events, to ensure public safety.”
• AstraZeneca has completed the sale of its 26.7 per cent ownership in Viela Bio, Inc. as part of that company’s proposed acquisition by Horizon Therapeutics. AstraZeneca has received around $775m for its stake.