Current Affairs

Oxford University announces landmark partnership for the development of COVID-19 vaccine

The University of Oxford announced today their agreement with AstraZeneca, a UK-based global biopharmaceutical company, to develop, manufacture and potentially distribute at a large scale the COVID-19 vaccine which is currently being worked on and trialled by the University.

The partnership has been solidified now, with finer details and terms to be finalised in the coming weeks. This could be a monumental event as it would allow for rapid deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine if trials prove to be successful. The vaccine itself was developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute who began trials in humans last week jointly with the University’s Oxford Vaccine Group.

This partnership is the first to come out of the Government’s launch of a Vaccines Taskforce two weeks ago which set out to find, test and deliver a new coronavirus vaccine. The government has also provided £20 million of funding for the University’s vaccine research and support for the institution’s clinical trials.

The AstraZeneca partnership agreement would not only provide the UK with early access, if the vaccine candidate proves successful, but the company would also work with partners worldwide to internationally distribute the vaccine, with a focus on accessibility for low and medium income countries.

The partnership is set to operate on a not-for-profit basis while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and only costs of production and distribution. Oxford University and its company, Vaccitech, who jointly have rights to the technology which was used in the vaccine development, will not be receiving royalties from the vaccine during the pandemic. Any subsequent royalties which follow will be reinvested directly back into medical research, including a new Pandemic Preparedness and Vaccine Research Centre which is being developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca.

University and national response

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said: “Our partnership with AstraZeneca will be a major force in the struggle against pandemics for many years to come. We believe that together we will be in a strong position to start immunising against coronavirus once we have an effective approved vaccine. Sadly, the risk of new pandemics will always be with us and the new research centre will enhance the world’s preparedness and our speed of reaction the next time we face such a challenge.

The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson said: “Like my colleagues all across Oxford, I am deeply proud of the work of our extraordinarily talented team of academics in the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. They represent the best tradition of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us, that has been the driving mission of the University of Oxford for centuries. Like people all across the country, we are wishing them success in developing an effective vaccine. If they are successful, our partnership with AstraZeneca will ensure that the British people and people across the world, especially in low and middle income countries, will be protected from this terrible virus as quickly as possible.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, said: “As COVID-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. This collaboration brings together University of Oxford’s world-class expertise in vaccinology and AstraZeneca’s global development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities. Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.

Bill Enright, CEO of Vaccitech, said: “We are delighted to facilitate this extensive collaboration in support of the development of the vaccine candidate in order to make it available as quickly as possible. We believe this vaccine candidate provides significant validation for our ChAdOx platform, which is one of the few to have already induced neutralising antibodies against coronavirus spike proteins in human studies for MERS. We are committed to doing all we can to support our scientific founders at the Jenner Institute in order to overcome this unprecedented global crisis.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Across government, we are working night and day to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect our NHS. But in the long run, a vaccine remains our best hope of defeating this virus for good. So I am determined to do everything in my power to develop an effective vaccine and get it to the people of the UK as soon as possible. I want the UK to lead the world in developing a coronavirus vaccine – and I will back our scientists to the hilt in doing so.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “This collaboration between Oxford University and AstraZeneca is a vital step that could help rapidly advance the manufacture of a coronavirus vaccine. It will also ensure that should the vaccine being developed by Oxford University’s Jenner Institute work, it will be available as early as possible, helping to protect thousands of lives from this disease.

Anvee Bhutani

Anvee Bhutani is Senior Media Editor of The Oxford Blue and was formerly both News Editor and Events Director. She is a penultimate year student at Magdalen College reading Human Sciences and is originally from San Francisco, California.