On April 30th, 2020, Anglo-Swedish biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca (LSE/STO/NYSE: AZN) announced that it had reached an agreement with Oxford University regarding the development, production, and dissemination of Oxford’s recombinant adenovirus vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The potential vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is under development by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford and entered phase 1 clinical trials in late April. According to the agreement, AstraZeneca “would be responsible for development and worldwide manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine.”
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot stated, “As COVID-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. 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.”
AstraZeneca’s Executive Vice President for BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development Mene Pangalos stated, “The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have a longstanding relationship to advance basic research and we are hugely excited to be working with them on advancing a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 around the world. We are looking forward to working with the University of Oxford and innovative companies such as Vaccitech, as part of our new partnership.”
UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma stated, “This collaboration between Oxford University and AstraZeneca is a vital step that could help 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.”
Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University Professor Sir John Bell stated, “Our partnership with AstraZeneca will be a major force in the struggle against pandemics for many years to come. We believe that together we will be in a strong position to start immunising against coronavirus once we have an effective approved vaccine. Sadly, the risk of new pandemics will always be with us and the new research centre will enhance the world’s preparedness and our speed of reaction the next time we face such a challenge.”
Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson stated, “Like my colleagues all across Oxford, I am deeply proud of the work of our extraordinarily talented team of academics in the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. They represent the best tradition of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us, that has been the driving mission of the University of Oxford for centuries.”
“Like people all across the country, we are wishing them success in developing an effective vaccine. If they are successful, our partnership with AstraZeneca will ensure that the British people and people across the world, especially in low and middle income countries, will be protected from this terrible virus as quickly as possible,” Professor Richardson continued.
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Healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55 at five centers in Southern England are participating in the phase 1 clinical trial of the vaccine. Data is anticipated to become available in May, with subsequent trials are to occur “by the middle of this year.”
The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine consists of the structural shell of “a weakened version of the common cold (adenovirus)” and contains genetic material encoding the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a structural element of the coronavirus important for the transmission of the virus into human host cells.
According to the press release, “The recombinant adenovirus vector (ChAdOx1) was chosen 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 more than 320 people to date and have been shown to be safe and well tolerated, although they can cause temporary side effects such as a temperature, flu-like symptoms, headache or sore arm.”