AstraZeneca Gets $1 Billion From U.S. to Make Oxford Vaccine

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AstraZeneca Plc received more than $1 billion in U.S. government funding to develop a Covid-19 vaccine from theUniversity of Oxford, and said it has supply agreements for 400 million doses.

The investment accelerates a race to secure vaccine supplies, seen as a key step toward getting global economies moving again after a lockdown-induced slump. Stock markets have been rising and falling on developments in research labs, as investors weigh the prospects for a successful shot.

The U.K. drugmaker received the money from the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and said it has secured capacity to make 1 billion doses. The move comes as the company’s vaccine candidate is still in human trials, with no guarantee of success.

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Drugmakers around the world are looking for manufacturing capacity to ramp up output. The Oxford vaccine is one of the world’s fastest-moving, and AstraZeneca has said it expects to have doses ready as soon as September.

BARDA has also provided funding for French pharmaceutical giantSanofi, including $30 million for its Covid vaccine and a $226 million award in December to increase production capacity for its pandemic influenza vaccine. A Covid vaccine developed by the company will probably go to Americans first if the company can successfully deliver one, Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson said in last week in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Sanofi said later that it would make the shot available everywhere. While the absence of a European counterpart to BARDA has slowed efforts to secure supplies, Hudson said the French company is in talks with several governments on possible arrangements.

Supplying the U.K. with vaccine will be a priority for AstraZeneca, Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot has said. Astra plans to make as many as 30 million doses available in Britain by September and has committed to delivering 100 million this year.

Fair Allocation

Astra said it’s working with groups including theWorld Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on making sure the vaccine is allocated fairly.

Astra aims “to ensure broad and equitable supply of the vaccine throughout the world at no profit during the pandemic,” according to a statement from the Cambridge, England-based company.

The shares were little changed early Thursday in London.

The U.S. funding will support a final-stage clinical trial with 30,000 participants, as well as tests in children, AstraZeneca said.

Dozens of other vaccine projects are under way around the world, from the U.S. to China, drawing in major pharma giants, university labs and others. Moderna Inc. shares jumped earlier this week after the U.S. biotech revealed positive early results from its experimental vaccine.

President Xi Jinping of China has said any successful vaccine developed there will be made available as a global public good.

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