LONDON, 1 May (APM) - The UK's National Health Service (NHS) will be given priority access to a potential Covid-19 vaccine being developed by UK scientists under a partnership announced on Thursday, The Times reported on Friday.
Oxford University said that AstraZeneca had agreed to manufacture and distribute a vaccine developed by its researchers if it proved safe and effective.
AstraZeneca said that it would give priority to increasing production capacity for the UK provided that positive results were returned from human trials over the next eight to 12 weeks. The jab would be supplied on a cost-only basis during the pandemic, it added, The Times reported.
It is the first confirmation that supplies of the UK's leading candidate vaccine would be reserved for the country. Ministers and the Oxford researchers had previously stressed the importance of global access.
AstraZeneca said that 100 million doses could be made by the end of the year, although that may rely on overseas production. It is understood that the Oxford team was approached by several international drugmakers as governments looked to secure potential vaccine supplies, The Times added.
UK trials for coronavirus vaccine
Earlier in the week The Telegraph carried a feature on UK research efforts into a coronavirus vaccine.
The paper said on Monday that last week human trials began using a vaccine developed at the University of Oxford.
The UK has pledged £20 million of funding for the Oxford project, and £22.5 million for clinical trials of another prototype at Imperial College London.
The paper spoke to Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator on the Oxford study, who said his team is working in collaboration with worldwide academics
"There is a very good coalition of developers coordinated by the WHO, who are getting together regularly to review progress," he said.
He added that "millions of doses" could be ready by the autumn, if "nothing goes wrong in that complex process" of clinical trials.
"But to get to the very large scale there is a huge technical effort and I think it's unlikely that could happen before the end of this year," he cautioned.
Raab plays down likelihood of Covid-19 vaccine before end of year
The Times on Monday carried comments from Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who said an effective vaccine against the new coronavirus is not likely to be ready this year..
Raab, who was acting prime minster while Boris Johnson was ill with Covid-19, said: "We are looking at the possibility of a vaccine: that’s not likely to come to fruition this year, but it could be important if we get multiple waves of coronavirus globally down the track."
A separate story in the Sunday Times quoted Professor Gina Radford, former deputy chief medical officer for England, who also said that a coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be ready until "well into the next year".
The paper said she told Sky News’ Sophie Ridge on Sunday show: "Firstly we haven't at the moment got a vaccine so we are having to start from scratch.
"We haven't got a hugely good track record with vaccines for this particular virus, coronavirus, the family of viruses. But having said that everything is being thrown at it, there are researchers all over the world trying to identify a vaccine. We have never seen anything like the effort that is being put to discover this vaccine."
Gilead says can make enough doses of remdesivir to treat 140,000 Covid-19 patients by end of May
Gilead said that it has capacity to make enough doses of its drug remdesivir for "several million treatment courses", the Mail Online on Thursday quoted the U.S. pharma as saying in its first-quarter results.
"As Gilead continues to work with international partners to expand production, Gilead announced it anticipates more than one million treatment courses will be manufactured by December 2020, with plans to be able to produce several million treatment courses in 2021," the Mail quoted the company as saying.
The Financial Times on Friday also reports on the story with the headline: 'Gilead hopes to produce 1 million courses of remdesivir by year's end'.
On Wednesday, early results from a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study suggest the drug could improve survival odds for severely ill coronavirus patients by as much as 30% and speed their recovery time (APMHE 67152
Gilead added that it has already begun to ramp up production of the drug, an antiviral that it originally developed to treat Ebola, and can make enough 10-day courses to treat 140,000 by the end of May.
Earlier on Thursday, the company's CEO, Daniel O'Day, deemed the results a cause for "hope at a time when it is badly needed," the Mail quoted Fox News reporting.
Dozens of existing drugs being tested as possible virus treatments
Scientists have discovered new drugs that could be repurposed to treat coronavirus, including over-the-counter medicines for allergies and coughs and a cancer treatment, in a pioneering project examining how the virus interacts with the human body, the FT reported on Thursday.
In a paper published in the medical journal Nature on Thursday, researchers from University of California, San Francisco and their colleagues in New York and Paris, identified treatments to be tested against Covid-19, the FT added.
The academics have narrowed down an initial list of 69 potential drugs, which are already on the market, to groups targeting two interactions between the virus and the human cells it hijacks. The researchers are in talks with pharmaceuticals companies including Roche about conducting clinical trials on the most promising candidates.
Nevan Krogan, director of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at UCSF that led the project, said it was "a paradigm shift" to go from the discovery of a new virus to understanding how drugs could tackle it within the space of just three months. "It is a new way of doing drug discovery," he said.
Drugs being investigated for Covid-10
The Telegraph at the weekend had a feature on the various drugs being investigated for Covid-19.
It named the following drugs: Gilead's remdesivir, Fukifilm's favipiravir, malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, AbbVie's Kaletra (ritonavir+lopinavir), anti-inflammatory dexamethasone and monoclonal antibodies.
On remdesivir it said there has been much excitement about remdesivir, but that an initial study in China suggested the drug performed poorly.
On favipiravir it said research in China found it sped up recovery times for patients with Covid-19.
On hydroxychloroquine it said it is relatively cheap and easy to manufacture making it ideal for widespread distribution, but that it is estimated conclusive results are six-months away.
On Kaletra it said a study of just 199 Covid-19 patients in China found no benefit was observed "beyond standard care" and that major studies are continuuing.
On dexamethasone it said anti-inflammatory drugs, used in combination with other drugs, could reduce inflammation reducing complications.
And on monoclonal antibodies it said a cocktail of antibodies harvested from people who overcome the disease could become a last resort if more traditional drugs have failed.
FT special report on combating coronavirus
The FT on on Tuesday published a special report on combating coronavirus.
The report included a feature on the need for companies to scale up vaccine capacity, noting that billions of dollars will have to be spent on preparing facilities for several candidates, including some that will never make it to market.
The paper spoked to Richard Hatchett, who leads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), who said: “We're making some fairly substantial investments even before having Phase I clinical trial results.”
Government funders are also having to choose between large multinationals such as Johnson & Johnosn and smaller biotechs such as Moderna, said the article.
J&J has the capacity to scale up its process for mass producing vaccines but is not due to enter clinical trials until September, said the paper By contrast, small companies are already testing prototypes on human volunteers.
Another feature in the FT's special report said the pandemic is the 'moment of truth' for anti-vaccination campaign groups.
The paper said scientists are concerned that some people will refuse to receive a Covid-19 vaccine if one is developed.
It spoke to Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Projects at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She said: “There is a small, highly organised group of people who are implacably against vaccinations. But there is a whole spectrum of people who are concernsed, or are on the fence, about them. This outbreak has the potential to change their minds.”
AstraZeneca sees sales growth in first quarter
The Times on Wednesday reported on AstraZeneca's first quarter financial results, saying that longer prescriptions, stricter treatment adherence by patients and short-term inventory increases related to the Covid-10 pandemic helped to boost sales (APMHE 67121
Total revenue rose 17% at constant currencies to $6.4 billion in the first three months of the year, underpinned by demand for new medicines launched in recent years, said the paper. Product sales rose 17% to $6.3 billion, ahead of City analyst forecasts of $5.89 billion.
Physicians group urges use of hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients
The Daily Mail on Wednesday reported on data from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) presented data of 2,333 Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine across the globe that shows 91.6% of those who got the drug fared better after treatment.
The group wrote a letter to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey urging that doctors should not wait for results of gold standard tests of the drug to start using it in coronavirus patients and should instead base their use of it on reasonable interpretations of limited available data.
AAPS's endorsement of the drug comes after a Veteran Affairs study of hydroxychloroquine found that those who took the drug were more likely to die, casting doubt over the potential treatment that President Trump has hailed a “game changer”.
Asthma drug being studied in coronavirus patients
The Daily Mail on Tuesday reported that a clinical trial is being launched to test the asthma drug ibudilast 's effectiveness in treating disease caused by coronavirus.
The drug has been approved to treat asthma in Japan and South Korea and has shown promise in improving lung health in mouse models.
The research team, from Yale University's New Haven Hospital, says it hopes the drug will reduce inflammation and slow down the progression of a threatening lung condition seen in the most severely ill coronavirus patients, according to the Daily Mail.
U.S. and China working together on finding origin of coronavirus
U.S. scientists are working with China to investigate the origin of coronavirus, said the FT on Monday.
This is despite criticism from the Trump administration that the Chinese government is failing to cooperate with outsiders.
The paper spoke to Ian Lipkin, director of the Centre for Infection and Immunity at Columbia university, who said he was working with Chinese researchers to determine whether the virus emerged in other parts of the country before it was discovered in Wuhan.