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Oxford scientists: Coronavirus vaccine could be widely available by end of year

A coronavirus vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford could be available by the end of the year, AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot has said.

The University of Oxford has partnered with the UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the further development, large-scale manufacture and potential distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate currently being trialled by the University.

The partnership will allow for rapid vaccination around the world if the COVID-19 vaccine candidate proves to be effective.

The vaccine candidate was developed by the University’s Jenner Institute who began trials in humans last week jointly with the University’s Oxford Vaccine Group.

The partnership also comes alongside £20 million UK Government funding for Oxford University’s vaccine research and support for the institution’s clinical trials.

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Under the new agreement, as well as providing UK access as early as possible if the vaccine candidate is successful, AstraZeneca will work with global partners on the international distribution of the vaccine, particularly working to make it available and accessible for low and medium income countries.

Both partners have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, with only the costs of production and distribution being covered.

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Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said: “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.”

UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “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.”

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, said: “As COVID-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. This collaboration brings together 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.”

The vaccine should be submitted for fast track regulatory approval in the fourth quarter of 2020, and be ready for limited use by the end of this year.

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the agreement was important in order to “see whether we can get this vaccine both to work and be manufactured and distributed to both the UK and globally”.

He added: “The challenge is that, once we get an approval by the regulators, we don’t have to go back to the beginning and work out how we manufacture it at scale.”

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