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A U.K. trial to develop a coronavirus vaccine, if successful, could deliver 30 million doses by September, according to the country’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
Speaking during a press conference on Sunday, the government minister gave an update on the work of the U.K.’s Vaccine Taskforce, which is coordinating the efforts of government, academia and industry. Specifically, Sharma highlighted the work underway to develop a vaccine at Oxford University and Imperial College London.
The first clinical trial of the Oxford vaccine is “progressing well,” he said, noting that all Phase 1 participants recently received their vaccine dose. “They are now being monitored closely by the clinical trial team,” Sharma explained. “The speed at which Oxford University has designed and organised these complex trials is genuinely unprecedented,” he added.
Sharma confirmed that Oxford University has signed a global licensing agreement with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca for commercialization and manufacturing of the vaccine. “This means that, if the vaccine is successful, Astra Zeneca will work to make up to 30 million doses available by September for the UK, as part of an agreement to deliver 100 million doses in total,” he explained.
The U.K. will be the first to get access to the vaccine, he added.
The vaccine trial at Imperial College is also making good progress, according to Sharma, who says that the effort is looking to move into clinical trials by mid-June with larger-scale trials planned to start in October.
On Sunday, the U.K. government announced 84 million British pounds ($102 million) to support the trials, in addition to 47 million British pounds ($57.1 million) that it has already invested in the efforts.
With at least 244,995 cases and 34,716 deaths, the U.K. is one of the most impacted countries by the coronavirus pandemic.
A number of efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine are underway around the world. Scientists at Israel’s Tel Aviv University and biopharmaceutical company Neovii, for example, recently announced a project to develop a vaccine.
Experts involved in the effort say that they are targeting the “Achilles heel” of coronavirus.
As of Monday morning, more than 4.73 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, at least 1,486,742 of which are in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The disease has accounted for at least 315,496 deaths around the world, including at least 89,564 people in the U.S.
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