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AstraZeneca to make Oxford COVID-19 vaccine


The experimental shot could reach late-stage trials by the middle of the year, ranking as one of the most advanced vaccine projects. Astra said Thursday it would join in the development as well as manufacture and distribute the product.

The vaccine developed by a team headed by Oxford’s Sarah Gilbert entered human testing last week. It’s one of at least 70 projects under development against the new virus, Sars-CoV-2. As the number of coronavirus infections globally exceeds 3 million, the pressure is growing to come up with solutions to the contagion.

The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” program will pull together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Oxford team’s vaccine candidate is a single shot that’s been administered to 320 people so far, who reported mostly flu-like symptoms, headaches and arm soreness. AstraZeneca didn’t provide financial details of the agreement.

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GlaxoSmithKline, Astra’s UK rival and one of the world’s biggest vaccine makers, has joined forces with France’s Sanofi on separate development work.

Astra plans to rely on contract manufacturing organisations and other partners globally while ramping up its own production capacity, Soriot said. A vaccine is the “number one tool” the company can try to bring to the pandemic, he said.

Based on the agreement with the government and Oxford “for the period of the pandemic we will be supplying the vaccine at cost,” he said. He said he expects it to be accessible and affordable.

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