US gives AstraZenena $1 billion for Oxford vaccine

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AstraZeneca, South San Francisco, California, April 11, 2020.

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AstraZeneca has received more than $1 billion from the U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a coronavirus vaccine from the University of Oxford. 

The British-Swedish drugmaker has agreed to initially supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine and secured total manufacturing capacity to produce 1 billion doses, with first deliveries in September. 

AstraZeneca’s development program of the vaccine includes a phase three clinical trial with 30,000 participants and a pediatric trial.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said the drugmaker would do everything in its power to make the vaccine “quickly and widely available.” 

The coronavirus has now infected over 5 million and killed 328,227 people worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

On Sunday, the British government announced it was putting £65.5 million ($79 million) in fresh funding toward the development of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 30 million doses expected to be rolled out as early as September. 

The University of Oxford announced it had partnered with AstraZeneca in April, to allow the drugmaker to develop and distribute the vaccine being researched by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. 

Human trials began last month on over 1,000 volunteers in the south of England and AstraZeneca said in this latest announcement that data from the trials was “expected shortly which, if positive, would lead to late-stage trials in a number of countries.” 

Although, given that no trial data has been released, we do not yet know if the vaccine will be effective and AstraZeneca has said it recognizes that it may not work. 

On Monday, U.S. drugmaker Moderna released positive data from its phase one human trial on its potential vaccine, in development with the U.S. government. 

Health-care publication STAT then reported Tuesday that vaccine experts were skeptical of Moderna’s new data. However, Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan told CNBC Wednesday that the drugmaker would never put out coronavirus vaccine data that was different from “reality.” 

Moderna said earlier in May that it was wrapping up the phase one trials and was moving to start phase two trials, expecting phase three to begin in July. If the vaccine was found to be safe to use, Moderna said it could be ready for the market in early 2021. 

BARDA has also provided funding for one of the two vaccines being developed by French pharmaceuticals company Sanofi, which it is working on with U.K. drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, according to Reuters in a report which said there are more than 90 vaccines being developed around the world, with eight in clinical trials. 

— CNBC’s Chloe Taylor and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this article.

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