June 8, 2020 / 6:43 AM / a month ago

Oxford Biomedica eyes UK supply boost of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Oxford Biomedica has signed a new manufacturing agreement with a group backed by the UK government to help it scale up production of AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine to cater to demand in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The gene and cell therapy firm said on Monday it agreed to a five-year partnership with the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) for equipment at its facility in Oxford, UK which would also help it make other vaccines.

While it is unclear if vaccines will work against the disease caused by the new coronavirus, dozens of companies are in the race to develop one amid ongoing trials. AstraZeneca said last week it was targeting two billion doses of its shot, AZD1222.

“This new partnership between VMIC and Oxford Biomedica ... will specifically help ensure that we have the right skills in place to manufacture a vaccine as soon as one is available,” said Kate Bingham, Chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine, a type known as a recombinant viral vector vaccine, uses a weakened version of the common-cold virus spiked with proteins from the novel coronavirus to generate a response from the body’s immune system.

The drugmaker in May partnered with Oxford Biomedica, spun off from the University of Oxford in 1995, for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

VMIC was founded in 2018 by the University of Oxford, Imperial College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and it receives funding from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Oxford Biomedica shares were up 3% at 798 pence in early trading.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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