Astrazeneca joins the Covid-19 vaccine push

The UK’s Oxford University put one of the first potential Covid-19 vaccines into the clinic, but it was always going to need a big partner to scale up and distribute any viable product. Step forward Astrazeneca, which will take on such activities. Final terms of the deal are still being hammered out but, echoing pledges made elsewhere, the partners will operate on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic. Huge share price reactions at certain coronavirus companies imply that investors expect a return at some stage, and the biopharma sector’s largesse will certainly have its limits. But profit is a dirty word right now, and while the longevity of the crisis and future demand remain unknowable, such calculations are almost impossible. Curbing the virus as quickly as possible is a global priority, and bringing in Astrazeneca will certainly boost Oxford University’s efforts. A separate question is why the much more established vaccines player Glaxosmithkline, also headquartered in the UK, was not signed up. Evaluate Vantage understands that discussions with multiple parties were held. Perhaps Astra was prepared to let the university retain more of the economics in the future, when returns on these investments will start to be considered.

Clinical-stage Covid-19 vaccines
Company/collaborators Vaccine Type Target Detail
Moderna/NIAID/Cepi mRNA-1273 mRNA vaccine SARS-CoV-2 spike protein IND filed to start 600 patient phase II study 
Cansino Biologics/Academy of Military Medical Sciences Ad5-nCoV Adenovirus type 5 vaccine SARS-CoV-2 spike protein China study under way
Shenzhen Genoimmune LV-SMENP-DC Synthetic minigene vaccine Multiple antigens Clinical trial started Mar 2020
University of Oxford/Astrazeneca COV001 Chimp adenovirus vaccine SARS-CoV-2 spike protein 1,100 patient trial started April 
Biontech/Pfizer BNT162 mRNA vaccine SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (four projects) Dosing commenced in Germany, in phase I/II trial 
Inovio INO-4800 DNA vaccine SARS-CoV-2 spike protein Enrollment in phase I trial complete, results expected June
Source: WHO list, EvaluatePharma & company statements.

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