British pharma major AstraZeneca ahead in global race for Covid-19 vaccine

With the Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of ebbing in nearly 185 countries across the globe, the race for a coronavirus vaccine is continuing at a frantic pace among global scientists and researchers. The China National Biotec Group (CNBG) said on Sunday that early human test results for a coronavirus vaccine candidate suggested it could be safe and effective, the second vaccine candidate from the firm to show encouraging results in a clinical trial.

Chinese researchers have been allowed to test eight vaccine candidates in humans at home and abroad, making the Asian giant a major front-runner in the race to develop a vaccine against the virus that has killed nearly 500,000 people globally. The experimental shot, developed by a Beijing-based unit of CNBG, has induced high-level antibodies in all the inoculated participants in a Phase 1/2 clinical trial involving 1,120 healthy people, according to preliminary data of the trial. Earlier this month, CNBG, said that another vaccine candidate produced by its Wuhan-based unit also triggered high-level antibodies safely in clinical trial participants.

Currently, there are more than 13 experimental vaccines in clinical trials among the 140 being developed to fight Covid-19.

Global health watchdog, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified the candidates developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc as the front-runners in the race to find an effective vaccine for the viral infection. AstraZeneca’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine is probably the world’s leading candidate and most advanced in terms of development, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist said on Friday.

The British drugmaker has already begun large-scale, mid-stage human trials of the vaccine, which was developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.

News agency Reuters quoted WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan as saying, “Certainly in terms of how advanced they are, the stage at which they are, they are I think probably the leading candidate.”

British pharma major AstraZeneca, which has already begun Phase III human trials of its AZD1222 (formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) vaccine candidate, signed its tenth supply-and-manufacturing deal earlier this week.

Brazil announced on Saturday it had signed a $127 million agreement to start producing locally the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The country is slated to initially produce 30 million doses of the vaccine — half by December and half by January of next year, according to a Reuters report.

Earlier this month, the AstraZeneca CEO told a radio station that the vaccine candidate would likely provide protection against Covid-19 for one year.

US firm Moderna Inc, which has already started Phase II trials for its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273, has partnered with drugmaker Catalent Inc to produce 100 million doses starting in the third quarter of 2020. Under the deal, Catalent will also provide packaging and labeling, storage and distribution services to support Moderna’s late-stage clinical trial for the vaccine. Catalent is already in partnership with Johnson and Johnson as well as AstraZeneca.

Closer home homegrown pharma major Hetero has started delivering the generic version of antiviral drug Remdesivir to states across the country for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Sold under the brand name Covifor, the drug has been priced at Rs 5,400 per vial and will be available at hospitals to treat the coronavirus infection.

Delhi and Maharashtra — the two worst-hit states in the country by the coronavirus pandemic will be the first to receive the first batch of the antiviral medicine. The Hyderabad-based drugmaker has dispatched 20,000 vials of Covifor to five states. Besides Maharashtra and the national capital, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu are the other two states that will receive the first batch of the drug. Telangana, which has seen a sudden surge in coronavirus cases in the last one week, is the fifth state that will receive the first batch of the medicine.

India on Saturday allowed the use of dexamethasone as an alternative to methylprednisolone to treat coronavirus patients with moderate and severe symptoms. The World Health Organization had called for a rapid increase in production of dexamethasone, after British clinical trials found it had life-saving potential for critically-ill coronavirus patients.

The Union Health Ministry put out a revised version of the Clinical Management Protocol: COVID-19 – a document published for use by health professionals as a reference. Earlier this month, the ministry had added the loss of smell and taste as new symptoms of the infectious disease in the manual.

The use of dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, has been cleared for patients in critical need of oxygen support and those who have excessive inflammatory response, the document states.

India has recorded successive highest single-day spikes of 18,552 fresh cases on an average, pushing the total number of cases well over the 5 lakh-mark, the latest data from the Health Ministry shows. India now has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases among 10 nations worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source : Hindustan Times

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