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AstraZeneca reaches deals with health charities to supply coronavirus vaccine worldwide.

AstraZeneca will help supply more than one billion doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine to countries outside the U.S. and the U.K. through agreements with two international health charities and the Serum Institute of India, one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers. GAVI the Vaccine Alliance, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, will provide $750 million in funding to support the transfer of vaccine manufacturing technology to new sites in Europe, and to secure production capacity elsewhere. They aim to procure, make and distribute 300 million doses worldwide.

Separately, AstraZeneca reached a licensing deal with the Serum Institute to provide 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries, with 400 million set to be supplied by the end of this year.

AstraZeneca has moved quickly to reach supply agreements with governments and international groups like CEPI and GAVI. The deals, which have collectively spoken for some 1.7 billion vaccine doses, reflect both the urgency of the pandemic as well as the challenges of manufacturing at a global scale.

There's also concern a global tug-of-war could result over supply of any vaccine proven safe and effective in protecting against coronavirus infections, with wealthy nations attempting to secure enough doses for their populations over global health groups seeking broader access.

Thursday's announcement from AstraZeneca could ease some of those worries, although it appears supply would only begin after the September to October timeframe the British drugmaker has promised to the U.K. and the U.S. government for first deliveries.

CEPI and GAVI will collaborate, with each paying roughly half of the $750 million in funding. CEPI will build manufacturing capacity, buy materials and book production slots outside of U.K.-based factories. GAVI will procure 300 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine through an international framework run by the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

CEPI provided initial seed funding to the University of Oxford, which invented and developed the vaccine before AstraZeneca licensed it in April.

Oxford conducted the initial Phase 1 study of the vaccine, now dubbed AZD1222, in the U.K. A large Phase 2 trial testing the treatment in more than 10,000 people recently began.

AstraZeneca has said it will provide the vaccine at no profit during the pandemic period and CEO Pascal Soriot recently told reporters on a conference call hosted by an industry group that the drugmaker would not charge royalties either.

No detailed terms were disclosed for AstraZeneca's licensing agreement with the Serum Institute.

Profit or no, AstraZeneca and Oxford find themselves in the fortunate position of being sought-after partners. The U.S. government recently pledged $1.2 billion to secure some 300 million doses of the vaccine, and has reportedly selected AstraZeneca as one of five to seven companies it will support through "Operation Warp Speed."

Some of that U.S. funding will go towards a large Phase 3 study in the U.S. of approximately 30,000 people.

Author:Jonathan Gardner

Published: June 4, 2020

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