Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has said it has had “good data so far” on its vaccine for Covid-19, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, which is already in large-scale human trials.
There are no approved vaccines for the illness caused by Sar-Cov-2 but AstraZeneca’s vaccine is being widely considered the leading candidate after results from early-stage human trials showed it was safe and produced an immune response.
“The vaccine development is progressing well. We have had good data so far. We need to show the efficacy in the clinical programme, but so far, so good,” chief executive Pascal Soriot said on a media call on Thursday.
AstraZeneca, Britain’s most valuable listed company, has already reached deals with countries to make more than 2 billion doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine and says it could be approved by the end of this year.
The Anglo-Swedish company recently completed agreements with the United States, Britain, the European Union, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a public-private-charitable partnership based in Norway, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, another public-private partnership headquartered in Geneva.
The deals cover 700 million doses.
It has also reached a licensing agreement with Serum Institute of India to supply low-and-middle-income countries and agreements with R-Pharm in Russia and SK Biopharmaceuticals Co Ltd in the Republic of Korea “to manufacture and export for other global markets.”
Serum Institute, the Pune-based largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, has said it would start making the vaccine before the last order was received so that it could be ready in sufficient quantities by the time all permissions were granted.
Soriot said the company was on track to make 2 billion doses of the vaccine at a few dollars a dose. It also concluded three more deals for distribution – should the vaccine work. The cost of making the vaccine is expected to be offset by funding from the governments.
AstraZeneca also repeated its promise not to profit from the Covid-19 vaccine during the pandemic as it reported it was on track with late-stage trials for the treatment.
“We felt, there (is) a time in life when companies need to step up and make a contribution. This is the kind of time in history when humanity, humankind is really threatened as a whole,’’ Soriot said, adding that a vaccine needed to be accessible to as many people as possible.
Such promises were boosted by strong sales across its range of treatments during the lockdown.
Sales jumped by 14% to $12.6 billion in the first six months of 2020 and were helped by strong trading in new medicines, as well as cancer and respiratory medication.
Soriot said he remained cautious amid the uncertainty of the pandemic despite the good earnings. “If we have learned one thing with this virus, it is that it is unpredictable. And so we need to remain cautious,” he said.
AstraZeneca also announced second quarter results that beat its sales and profit estimates, thanks to strong sales from a diverse product line-up.
Among drugs with better-than-expected revenues, sales of respiratory drug Symbicort rose 12% to $653 million, about $90 million above consensus, while revenue from cancer drug Lynparza jumped 62% to $554 million.
Newer drugs for diabetes, heart conditions and cancer, including its top-selling lung cancer drug Tagrisso, performed well in the quarter and AstraZeneca remains on track for a third consecutive year of growth.
The company stuck by its 2020 outlook on Thursday and its shares were up about 3% at 88.6 pounds after product sales of $6.05 billion in the three months to June surpassed consensus of $6.01 billion. The figure excludes payments from tie-ups.
Core earnings of 96 cents per share beat analysts’ expectation of 93 cents. Total revenue rose 11%.
(With agency inputs)