Tue. Dec 7th, 2021

AstraZeneca is creating a new division for vaccines and antibody therapies as the drugmaker commits itself to the business despite the shaky start to its Covid-19 shot.

The Anglo-Swedish company has confirmed the creation of the vaccine and immunotherapy unit, saying it will bring together research and development, manufacturing, commercial and medical teams.

“The team will be dedicated to our Covid-19 vaccine, our long-acting antibody combination and our developmental vaccine that addresses multiple variants of concern, as well as our existing portfolio for respiratory viral disease, ”it said.

The new unit will be led by Iskra Reić, who is currently Executive Vice President for Europe and Canada.

The move comes after the vaccine, also known as Vaxzevria, suffered multiple setbacks earlier this year, including delays due to manufacturing problems, concerns about a very rare blood clotting side effect and disputes over data supporting its effectiveness.

In May, CEO Pascal Soriot told the Financial Times that he believed the vaccine “has a future” but the company has not yet decided what to do about it in the long run. “I originally expected us to know now, but we had so much to do and we certainly had some setbacks,” he said.

Initially, AstraZeneca was not seen as an obvious partner for the University of Oxford because it produced only one vaccine, a nasal spray to prevent flu, and thus did not have the infrastructure needed for traditional vaccine production.

People familiar with the matter said the new unit is a sign that the drugmaker will continue to market the vaccine, created with the University of Oxford, after the pandemic period when its contract allows it to generate profit.

One of the people warned that no significant additional investment was linked to the restructuring and suggested that one benefit would be to allow Soriot to focus on other more profitable businesses, such as oncology.

Another said it was “merely a pool of resources and leadership for a number of assets in the portfolio and does not indicate a direction of travel for the vaccine”.

The company is still awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration nearly a year after its competitors received emergency use authorizations. Many EU countries have either abandoned the shot or restricted its use.

Even the UK, which mainly used the vaccine in the initial deployment, chose to use mainly Pfizer jabs as boosters. The European Medicines Agency is still reviewing the use of the AstraZeneca shot as a booster.

While Pfizer has snapped up market share in the more lucrative developed markets, which has led it to increase its revenue projections from its Covid-19 shot to $ 36 billion this year, it is predicted that AstraZeneca will generate about $ 4.2 billion, according to an estimate from health data analysis group Airfinity. AstraZeneca, which will report its third-quarter earnings on Friday, delivered more than 1.9 billion doses of its much cheaper shot.

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