By Callum Keown
British drugmaker AstraZeneca has started manufacturing the University of Oxford’s potential coronavirus vaccine ahead of trial results and has doubled its capacity to two billion doses.
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the company wasn’t going to wait for clinical results, which it expected to have in August, and had begun manufacturing the experimental vaccine.
The pharmaceutical giant /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -0.37% , which has already agreed to provide the U.K. and the U.S. with doses, said it has secured agreements to supply the vaccine to low and middle-income countries through health organizations, including two backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Human trials began in Oxford at the end of April and scientists hope to have some indication over whether the vaccine works by July. The vaccine could be available for people in the U.K. by September if the trial proves successful, while 300 million doses would be available in the U.S., with the first being delivered in October.
Soriot said on Friday manufacturing of the potential vaccine had already started as “we have to have it ready to be used by the time we have the results.”
“We are actually starting to manufacture right now, we are not going to wait until we get the clinical results. That’s the financial risk that is taken and it is going to be shared with organizations we are partnering with,” he told BBC World News.
Soriot added that the company expected to have clinical results by August. “Our present assumption is that we will have the data by the end of the summer, by August, so in September we should know whether we have an effective vaccine or not,” he told BBC radio.
AstraZeneca said on Thursday it had increased manufacturing capacity to two billion doses of the vaccine, including to low and middle-income countries through a number of agreements.
It has struck a $750 million agreement with two health organizations backed by Gates and his wife Melinda — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance — to provide and distribute 300 million doses fairly across the world.
AstraZeneca has also agreed to supply the Serum Institute of India with 1 billion doses for low and middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020.
The FTSE 100 company struck a partnership with Oxford University at the end of April to develop, manufacture and distribute the university’s experimental vaccine — if it works.
The U.K. is set to be given first access to the potential vaccine, as the British government said 30 million doses could be made available as early as September, as part of an agreement for 100 million doses. At the end of last month, AstraZeneca said it had received more than $1 billion in U.S. funding to accelerate the development of the experimental vaccine — an agreement that includes America getting 300 million doses. The deal between the company and the U.S. Biomedical Research and Development Authority also includes a Phase 3 clinical trial in the U.S. this summer with 30,000 volunteers.
The U.S. has also supported vaccine efforts by Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -0.78% , France’s Sanofi /zigman2/quotes/206928357/delayed FR:SAN -1.30% , and Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.61% , as part of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” initiative.
The British drugmaker also has a 7.7% stake in Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna, whose own experimental vaccine has been said to have had encouraging early results.