AstraZeneca Strikes Deal with European Nations to Supply COVID-19 Vaccine
As AstraZeneca closes in on developing a vaccine against COVID-19, the U.K. pharma giant struck a deal with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance to supply up to 400 million doses of the preventative medication by the end of 2020 – if it clears the clinic.
This agreement with Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), which has been spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, aims to accelerate the supply of potential vaccines against the disease that has infected nearly 8 million people across the globe. The IVA said it is committed to ensuring equitable access to the vaccine begin developed by AstraZeneca and the Jenner Institute of Oxford University to all participating countries across Europe. The value of the deal was not disclosed in the announcement.
“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. I would like to thank the governments of Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands for their commitment and swift response,” AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a statement.
For AstraZeneca, the deal with the IVA comes days after the company boosted its supply chain infrastructure for the vaccine through an $87 million deal with Emergent BioSolutions to manufacture the vaccine for the U.S. market. Additionally, AstraZeneca struck other manufacturing agreements with France-based Novasep, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance for 700 million doses of the medication. With the number of manufacturing alliances AstraZeneca has struck, the company said its total manufacturing capacity currently stands at two billion doses.
Last week, AstraZeneca announced a commitment to having 2 billion doses of the as-of-yet unproven medication known as AZD1222 by the end of the year. AstraZeneca was named one of the five finalists for the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed, a program aimed at speeding along the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. AstraZeneca and The Jenner Institute’s development plans have been bolstered by a $1 billion grant from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
Last month, Oxford University announced the beginning of a Phase II/III study of its vaccine candidate, AZD1222 in about 10,000 adult volunteers. The vaccine candidate uses a replication-deficient chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold (adenovirus) virus that causes infections in chimpanzees and contains the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. After vaccinations, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack COVID-19 if it later infects the body.
AstraZeneca recognizes that the vaccine candidate may not work but said it is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.
In addition to its vaccine efforts, AstraZeneca is also assessing its oncology drug Calquence (acalabrutinib) against COVID-19 after preliminary studies showed the medication benefited a small number of patients who have severe infections of the novel coronavirus. In the study that launched the trial, most patients who received Calquence, a Bruton Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) Inhibitor, saw measurable improvements in their oxygen levels within one to three days, researchers said. Nine out of 11 patients, 82%, who had been receiving supplemental oxygen when treated with acalabrutinib were discharged from the hospital and no longer required supplemental oxygen. Additionally, 50% of the patients who were receiving mechanical ventilation prior to treatment were extubated and discharged without the need of supplemental oxygen.
AstraZeneca is also exploring Farxiga (dapagliflozin), an SLG2 inhibitors in COVID-19 patients.