Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has agreed to manufacture and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine under development by the University of Oxford if the treatment turns out to be effective.
The company’s chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said that “the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent.”
The first human trial in Europe of a vaccine started in Oxford last week.
Data from this test phase may be available from the University’s Jenner Institute in mid-June.
However, the scientists said the successful development of a vaccine will take at least a year.
Soriot added, “We hope that by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalization of a vaccine to fight the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic of a generation.”
Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, told the BBC Today program that the deal was important in order to “see if we can make this vaccine work and be made and distributed in the UK and worldwide ”.
He added, “The challenge is that once we get regulatory approval, we don’t have to go back to the start and figure out how we make it on a large scale. “
The partnership with AstraZeneca aims to strengthen the production capacity of tens of millions of doses by the end of the year if the treatment is effective.
“Our vaccine manufacturing capacity in the UK is not where it needs to be, and we will be working with AstraZeneca to improve this considerably,” added Professor Bell.
Business secretary Alok Sharma said the agreement was a “vital step” that could “move” any manufacturing process forward.
“It will also guarantee that, if the vaccine developed by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford works, it will be available as soon as possible, which will help protect thousands of lives against this disease,” he said. added.
AstraZeneca’s share price rose almost 3% from the announcement.