Coronavirus Vaccine Race Pushes Up Pharma Giants' Production

Ritujay Ghosh

The United States has secured almost a third of the first 1 billion doses for AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine. On May 21, U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority pledged $1 billion to AstraZeneca to speed up development of a coronavirus vaccine from the University of Oxford.

Biotech companies and drugmakers across the world are speeding up development of a vaccine for COVID-19. This has seen many big players joining forces to come up with a treatment. Also, governments across the world are pumping in huge amounts to secure doses of the vaccines. This has seen many big names already ramping up manufacturing of their vaccine candidate for COVID-19 so that they can meet global demand if the drug proves to be safe and effective.

U.S. Secures a Third of Potential COVID-19 Vaccine

AstraZeneca, which is developing a COVID-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford, has agreed to initially supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine and secured total manufacturing capacity to produce 1 billion doses, with first deliveries in September. 

In April, the University of Oxford announced that it has partnered with AstraZeneca to allow the drugmaker to develop and distribute the vaccine being researched by the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. Per the U.S. deal, AstraZeneca will start a Phase III clinical trial of the vaccine with 30,000 volunteers. Human trials began last month on over 1,000 volunteers in the south of England. However, no trial data has been released, and AstraZeneca has said it recognizes that the vaccine may not work. 

Drugmakers Ramp up Manufacturing

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 5 million and killed 328,227 people globally. While the FDA hasn’t approved any treatment for COVID-19, vaccines are being seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their stalled economies.

This has seen many companies joining forces to ramp up manufacturing even before the vaccines candidates have proved effective. Earlier this month, biotechnology giant Moderna, Inc. MRNA, announced a 10-year partnership with Swiss contract drugmaker Lonza to ramp up production of the experimental coronavirus vaccine. Moderna said that it could start manufacturing its yet-unconfirmed COVID-19 vaccine as early as July. Moderna has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Its shares have jumped 36.1% in the past 30 days.

Also, Pfizer, Inc. PFE is contemplating shifting more of its medicine production to outside contractors, as it is focusing on large-scale production of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The company is planning to zero in on three sites in the United States and one in Belgium for the early stages of the launch, provided the vaccine candidate in collaboration with BioNTech SE BNTX gets green light from the FDA. Pfizer carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), while BioNTech has a Zacks Rank #3. Shares of Pfizer and BioNTech have gained 4.6% and 22.8% in the past 30 days, respectively. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Also, Sanofi SNY last month said that it would be able to produce up to 600 million doses of vaccine next year if its clinical trials with GlaxoSmithKline, plc GSK go as planned. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have entered into a partnership to speed up development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline each carries a Zacks Rank #2.

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