Drugs giant Astrazeneca has partnered with Oxford University to manufacture its potential Covid-19 vaccine, the firm announced this morning.
The vaccine, which is being developed by the Jenner Institute and the Oxford Vaccine Unit, is one of 70 treatments worldwide that is under development to counter the coronavirus disease.
Last week the first human trials for the vaccine were begun, with Astrazeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot today saying that the developers will have established whether the vaccine works by June or July.
Speaking to the BBC, Soriot said: “By June, July we will already have a very good idea of the direction of travel in terms of its potential efficacy.
“We’ll continue working with the Oxford Vaccine Unit to bring it to patients and to regulatory authorities first of all as soon as possible,” he added.
The development of a successful vaccine is expected to take around 12 to 18 months, far shorter than the average period of five to seven years.
Soriot said that although the efficacy of the vaccine was not yet known, “now is the time to take those kind of risks”:
“This is a terrible crisis we’re facing and we need solutions and a vaccine is of course the number one tool we can bring to managing this.”
Pharmaceutical companies around the world have thrown their resources into developing treatments for the new disease, which has now infected over 3m people worldwide and killed 215,000.
Astrazeneca is already trialling two of its existing drugs to see whether they might be effective in treating the novel coronavirus.
Rival Glaxosmithkline has partnered with French giant Sanofi to develop a vaccine, while US drug firm Gilead yesterday said its drug remdesivir had shown positive results in early trials.
The news prompted global financial markets to jump amid rising hopes that a treatment was getting closer to being found.