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AstraZeneca to release COVID-19 vaccine data imminently, says Jefferies

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AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) is to release COVID-19 vaccine data imminently, analysts at Jefferies said after a discussion with the pharma giant’s chief financial officer Marc Dunoyer.


Interim results from the final stage of trials in the UK, Brazil and South Africa should come in “days to weeks”, as management already guided for figures to be released by year-end.


READ: Which Covid vaccine candidates are competing against Pfizer?


The firm is conducting studies on 30,000 people globally to assess the jab developed by Oxford University.


Dunoyer said the FTSE 100 firm had been encouraged by good data announced by competitors recently because, although the vaccines have different modalities they share the common target of the spike protein, the bank said.


Researchers used the copy of a chimpanzee viral vector based on a weakened version of a common cold virus, because it causes infections in the animals and contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, at the basis of COVID-19.


After vaccination, the surface spike protein is produced, priming the immune system to attack the SARS-CoV-2 virus if it later infects the body.


Conversely, the candidates developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna are mRNA-based, meaning they instruct a patient’s own cells to produce proteins that could prevent the disease.


Looking at the wider portfolio, AstraZeneca has taken steps to minimise the impact on the balance sheet given the commitment to supply the vaccine at no-profit during the pandemic period, Jefferies said.


The impact on research and development spending has been relatively limited without significant interruption in 2020, and no major impact is expected in 2021.


In-person interactions have reduced tremendously, maybe by half, and the greater use of digital tools has resulted in cost savings.


This is expected to change next year if representatives are less restricted but is not anticipated to immediately return to pre-COVID levels.


AstraZeneca still expects net cashflows to cover the dividend in 2021 and this remains a priority, Jefferies noted, so there is a disciplined approach to deals and in general only immediately accretive opportunities are considered.


Shares shed 3% to 8,248p on Tuesday at close.

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