- BusinessThe Telegraph
The British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant leading the global race to manufacture the first Covid-19 vaccine is also nearing a breakthrough on life-saving antibody treatments for the elderly and vulnerable. A cloned antibody injection - which instantly arms the body to neutralise the virus - is likely to be a game-changer for those in the first stages of coronavirus. Scientists in AstraZeneca bases in the UK and America are up to "full speed" on testing, with executives increasingly hopeful an effective treatment can go into production next year. The company is beginning pre-emptive manufacturing of a pioneering vaccine, AZD1222, being tested with Oxford University. This week the firm agreed deals to supply two billion doses of the vaccine worldwide by the end of the year. It is hoped Britons will get access to the first doses in September. One of the new partnerships agreed this week was with the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume. SII has hinted it is exploring other "parallel" partnerships with AstraZeneca, suggesting it may increase funding for the antibody treatment too. Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca's chief executive, told The Sunday Telegraph, that the treatment being developed is "a combination of two antibodies" in one injection "because by having both you reduce the chance of resistance developing to one antibody". Antibody treatment can be used for similar purposes as a vaccine, which normally sparks a bodily reaction to create its own antibodies. However, it is more expensive to produce than the vaccine so would be prioritised for older or more vulnerable patients "who may not be able to develop a good response to a vaccine". The greatest hope of all remains the Oxford vaccine, however. Two deals which could eventually be worth almost a billion pounds were agreed on Thursday, one of which was with Microsoft philanthropist Bill Gates, to supply half of the doses to low and middle-income countries. Mr Soriot has said he expects to know by August if the AZD1222 vaccine is effective.
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