Astra seals deal to mass produce its Covid jab, as it begins US trials

Astrazeneca has struck a deal to mass-produce a potential Covid-19 vaccine, as it begins large-scale human trials in the US.

The FTSE 100 drugs firm will pay gene therapy group Oxford Biomedica £15million up front to scale up manufacturing capacity of the vaccine, as it hopes to win fast-track approval in the US, and plans to enrol up to 30,000 test candidates.

Astrazeneca’s shot, developed in collaboration with researchers at Oxford University, is one of the most promising vaccinations under way. 

Vaccine deal: Astrazeneca will pay gene therapy group Oxford Biomedica £15m up front to scale up manufacturing capacity of the vaccine

Vaccine deal: Astrazeneca will pay gene therapy group Oxford Biomedica £15m up front to scale up manufacturing capacity of the vaccine

Vaccine deal: Astrazeneca will pay gene therapy group Oxford Biomedica £15m up front to scale up manufacturing capacity of the vaccine

Experts hope it will halt the spread of coronavirus, which has already killed more than 850,000 people.

A final-stage trial is in progress in the UK, and reports have emerged that the US may be aiming for approval before the November presidential election.

Astrazeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot said: ‘We are moving quickly but without cutting corners, and regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes this potential Covid-19 vaccine.’

Oxford Biomedica said it expected to receive more than £35million more if the vaccine was successful, as it manufactures large batches of the vaccine until the end of 2021.

Already the UK has bought 100m doses of the vaccines, while the European Union has bought 300m. Astrazeneca shares fell 1.7 per cent, or 143p, to 8197p.

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