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15 June, 2020 - 10:19 By Tony Quested

Injection of sense as European powers buy into vaccine vision

Cambridge  medical technology powerhouse AstraZeneca has reached an agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA) – spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands – to supply up to 400 million doses of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine with deliveries starting by the end of 2020.

With the new agreement, the IVA aims to accelerate the supply of the vaccine and make it available to other European countries that wish to participate in the initiative. 

The IVA is committed to providing equitable access to all participating countries across Europe.

AstraZeneca continues to build a number of supply chains in parallel across the world, including for Europe. The UK company is seeking to further expand manufacturing capacity and is open to collaborating with other companies to meet its commitment to support access to the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic.

CEO Pascal Soriot said: “This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University’s vaccine following approval. With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly.”

AstraZeneca has just completed similar agreements with the UK, US, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance for 700 million doses and agreed a licence with the Serum Institute of India for the supply of an additional one billion doses, principally for low- and middle-income countries. Total manufacturing capacity currently stands at two billion doses.

Oxford University last month announced the start of a Phase II/III UK trial of AZD1222 in about 10,000 adult volunteers. Other late-stage trials are due to begin in a number of countries. 

AstraZeneca recognises that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical programme with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.

The company’s comprehensive pandemic response also includes rapid mobilisation of its global research efforts to discover novel coronavirus-neutralising antibodies to prevent and treat progression of the COVID-19 disease, with the aim of reaching clinical trials in the next three to five months. 

The company has also swiftly moved into testing of new and existing medicines to treat the infection, including the CALAVI trials underway for Calquence (acalabrutinib) and the DARE-19 trial for Farxiga (dapagliflozin) in COVID-19 patients.

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