On 30 April, the University of Oxford announced a partnership with biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for global development and distribution of the University’s potential recombinant adenovirus vaccine aimed at preventing COVID-19 infection from SARS-CoV-2. The partnership aims to bring the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine to patients if the vaccine becomes distributable. The vaccine candidate is being trialled by the University’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. The coronavirus vaccine development began in January 2020.

If the University’s vaccine candidate is successful, AstraZeneca will be in charge of development, global manufacturing, and distribution of the vaccine. AstraZeneca will work to make the vaccine available in conjunction with global partners – with a focus on making the vaccine available and accessible to low- and medium-income countries. 

Both AstraZeneca and the University have agreed to operate on a not-for-profit basis during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Oxford University announcement states: “Oxford University and its spin-out company Vaccitech, who jointly have the rights to the platform technology used to develop the vaccine candidate, will receive no royalties from the vaccine during the pandemic. Any royalties the University subsequently receives from the vaccine will be reinvested directly back into medical research, including a new Pandemic Preparedness and Vaccine Research Centre. The centre is being developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca.”

The partnership is to be the first of its kind since the government launched a dedicated Vaccines Taskforce – aimed at finding, testing and delivering a new coronavirus vaccine. It comes alongside £20 million in government funding for the University’s vaccine research and clinical trials.

In a comment to Cherwell, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said: “The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have a longstanding relationship to advance research and scientific understanding of complex diseases. By partnering we want to combine Oxford’s world-class expertise in vaccinology with AstraZeneca’s global development, manufacturing and distribution capabilities. Our hope is that, by joining forces, we can accelerate the globalisation of a vaccine to combat the virus and protect people from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.”

The spokesperson continued: “As COVID-19 continues its grip on the world, the need for a vaccine to defeat the virus is urgent. The Jenner Institute proved in previous trials that the same vaccine platform had shown promise in early clinical trials. This means they have been able to develop the potential COVID-19 vaccine and advance to clinical trials more quickly. AstraZeneca will be working closely with the University, governments, health authorities and CMOs over the coming weeks and months to ensure we can accelerate the development and manufacturing as quickly as possible.”

The partnership aims to increase the speed with which the vaccine  – if successful – could reach patients worldwide. 

In AstraZeneca’s announcement, Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, said: “Our partnership with AstraZeneca will be a major force in the struggle against pandemics for many years to come. We believe that together we will be in a strong position to start immunising against coronavirus once we have an effective approved vaccine. Sadly, the risk of new pandemics will always be with us and the new research centre will enhance the world’s preparedness and our speed of reaction the next time we face such a challenge.”

The partnership will prepare for future pandemics and attempt to increase the speed with which such challenges are addressed. By creating the framework for future development, the University and AstraZeneca hope to improve responses to future pandemics.

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, said: “The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have a longstanding relationship to advance basic research and we are hugely excited to be working with them on advancing a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 around the world. We are looking forward to working with the University of Oxford and innovative companies such as Vaccitech, as part of our new partnership.”  

Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, expressed her excitement about and approval of the AstraZeneca partnership. “Like my colleagues all across Oxford, I am deeply proud of the work of our extraordinarily talented team of academics in the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Group. They represent the best tradition of research, teaching and contributing to the world around us, that has been the driving mission of the University of Oxford for centuries. Like people all across the country, we are wishing them success in developing an effective vaccine. If they are successful, our partnership with AstraZeneca will ensure that the British people and people across the world, especially in low and middle income countries, will be protected from this terrible virus as quickly as possible.”