AstraZeneca, Oxford Biomedica expand Covid-19 vaccine supply tie-up

Sanofi and Regeneron drop rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara as a Covid-19 treatment

AstraZeneca’s headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

AstraZeneca’s headquarters in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

 

AstraZeneca has expanded its previous agreement with Oxford Biomedica to mass-produce the British drug maker’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, as it looks to scale up supply ahead of a possible fast-track approval from the United States.

The news came as French pharma group Sanofi announced on Tuesday that its rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara had failed as a Covid-19 treatment. Sanofi had been working with US group Regeneron on assessing the potential of the drug as a coronavirus therapy.

Gene and cell therapy firm Oxford Biomedica said on Tuesday that AstraZeneca would give it $15 million (€12.5 million) upfront to reserve manufacturing capacity at its plant and that it could get an additional $35 million plus other costs until the end of 2021 under the new 18-month deal.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine hopeful for the novel coronavirus, AZD1222, already among the leading candidates in the global race for a successful vaccine, moved to late stage trials in the United States this week as the company targeted three billion doses of the vaccine.

Oxford Biomedica was among AstraZeneca’s initial partners when they teamed up in May to produce the vaccine, and Tuesday’s deal could be further expanded by another year and a half into 2022 and 2023, Oxford said.

Kevzara dropped

The failure of Kevzara as a Covid-19 treatment follows a similar disappointment of a Roche product.

Sanofi said Kevzara – which it produces with Regeneron – had failed as a Covid-19 treatment, with recent trials in patients across the world showing adverse effects. Sanofi said the trials had led in some cases to Covid-19 pneumonia infections and even deaths in a few cases.

The two companies do not anticipate conducting further clinical studies of the drug as a therapy for Covid-19, Sanofi added.

Earlier trials had shown that the drug did not help patients with less severe Covid-19, the companies had said in July.

Speaking as the news was announced, Sanofi’s global head of research and development, John Reed, said the company was “committed to help combat the global Covid-19 pandemic, including developing vaccine candidates that can be manufactured at large scale”.

Last month, chief executive Paul Hudson said Sanofi’s confidence in its coronavirus vaccine candidates had increased over the summer as the drug maker prepared to start clinical trials.

In July, Roche said its attempt to retool its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra/RoActemra to treat patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19-related pneumonia failed in a late-stage trial. – Reuters