Coronavirus: AstraZeneca and Oxford University combine to find vaccine

Pharmaceutical giant will help manufacture and distribute a vaccine if it proves successful

Screen grab taken from video issued by Britain's Oxford University, showing a person being injected as part of the first human trials in the UK to test a potential coronavirus vaccine, untaken by Oxford University in England, Thursday April 23, 2020.  Two volunteers have received the first vaccine trial against the COVID-19 Coronavirus on Thursday. (Oxford University Pool via AP)
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Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has agreed to develop, manufacture and distribute a potential coronavirus vaccine with the prestigious University of Oxford.

Professor Sir John Bell, the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said the deal would be a “major force” in the struggle against future pandemics.

“We believe that together we will be in a strong position to start immunising against coronavirus once we have an effective approved vaccine,” he said.

“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,” Prof Bell added.

Experts at Oxford are testing the effectiveness of potential vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, which has been given to more than 320 people since the first human trial last week.

They say the would-be vaccine is safe, although there have been reports of a temperature, flu-like symptoms, headaches and a sore arm in the short term.

Phase one clinical trial last week used health volunteers aged 18-55, with data potentially available next month. Late-stage trials should take place by the middle of the years.

Pascal Soriot, the CEO of AstraZeneca, said the agreement would combine Oxford’s history of vaccinology and his firms expertise in manufacturing and distributing pharmaceuticals.

“As Covid-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. 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 study at Oxford of volunteers in southern England will use up to 1,100 participants with some receiving the would-be vaccine and others something else.