AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) is on track to have COVID-19 vaccines targeting the new variants ready by autumn.
In collaboration with the University of Oxford, the pharma giant is adapting the already approved and distributed jab to new disease strains, with clinical trials earmarked for the spring.
The aim is to speed up processes in the hope to reach production at scale to between six to nine months by using existing clinical data and optimising the current supply chain.
“Work on the variants hasn’t started today, it started weeks and months ago, as soon as those new variants were identified and … we are aiming to be in the clinic in the spring, with next generation vaccines for the new variants,” Sir Mene Pangalos, executive vice-president at the BioPharmaceuticals R&D arm, was reported as saying by The Guardian.
“It is quite possible that the vaccines we have today will still be protecting against all of the variants, for severe disease, hospitalisations and death.”
“My assumption is that if we want to protect against mild disease as well, then vaccines that are targeting these new variants are likely to be more effective in the milder cases of the disease.”
The FTSE 100 firm is scheduled to deliver 100mln of the inoculation globally this month, doubling the output by April.
It has committed to with its manufacturing network to build global vaccine capacity to 3bn doses.
“On a human level AstraZeneca’s vaccine saga has been disappointing; the clash with the EU, new data demonstrating a lack of efficacy in preventing mild to moderate infection caused by the South African variant, and the decision by German authorities to limit vaccinations in persons under 65 years old,” commented Sebastian Skeet, Senior Analyst at Third Bridge.
“Ultimately, this does represent a share price overhang. However, the opposite can be said for AstraZeneca’s core business. The company is arguably the poster child for big pharma turnarounds, with CEO Pascal Soriot rebuilding the pipeline and establishing the necessary growth drivers.”
Shares were flat at 7,223p on Thursday afternoon.