Coronavirus: AztraZeneca and J&J press on with vaccine trials

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2 min read
A man works in a laboratory of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Peter     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A man works in a laboratory of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter

COVID-19 vaccine trials are set to resume, with pharma giants saying that they would continue trialling their potential treatments.

AstraZeneca (AZN) has gained approval by regulators to resume the trial of its experimental vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is gearing up to continue its trial on Monday or Tuesday, the companies said.

The news shows progress is being made in measures to combat the coronavirus. Positive vaccine news usually leads to optimism in the stock market as investors look to a return to relative normality in the economy.

It also comes ahead of the US presidential election, where candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s stance on tackling the virus has the power to sway voters.

Both companies have brokered deals with countries including the US if the vaccine is approved by regulators.

AstraZeneca’s trial had been paused last month, following reports of a serious neurological illness in one of its participants believed to be transverse myelitis. J&J also paused its late-stage trial last week after a study participant became ill.

J&J said that a US safety panel has recommended the drugmaker resume the trial recruitment. No evidence was found the vaccine had been the reason for the volunteer’s illness. The company said it remains on track to produce results from the trial by the end of the year, or beginning of 2021.

According to AstraZeneca, it is not unusual for some trial participants to fall ill during these kinds of trials, but it has been deemed safe to continue by the main US regulator.

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AstraZeneca also said on Friday its deal with Oxford University will let it add up to 20% manufacturing costs to cover additional expenses.

The costs of making the vaccine could exceed $1bn (£77m). These include “clinical development, regulatory, distribution, pharmacovigilance and other expenses," an AstraZeneca spokesman said in a statement.

Observers have expressed fears over a lack of transparency in global deals involving vaccines, with costs factoring into these worries.

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