New division will combine research and development, manufacturing, as well as commercial and medical teams.
AstraZeneca is creating a separate section for vaccines and antibody therapies, the drugmaker said, to focus on its COVID-19 shot and coronavirus treatments following a series of setbacks during the pandemic.
The news agency Reuters reported in July that the Anglo-Swedish company is investigating options for its vaccine business and is expected to have greater clarity on the matter by the end of 2021.
The new division, which will be led by Executive Vice President of Europe and Canada Iskra Reic, will combine research and development, manufacturing, as well as commercial and medical teams, a company spokesman said.
“The team will be committed to our COVID-19 vaccine, our long-acting antibody combination and our developmental vaccine that addresses various variants of concern, as well as to our existing portfolio for respiratory viral disease,” the representative said Tuesday.
The decision to start a new business comes after a turbulent 18 months for the drugmaker, who developed its COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
Production problems have forced the company to reduce deliveries to the European Union this year, prompting the bloc to launch a legal challenge that has since been settled.
Governments have also restricted its use among certain age groups due to links with extremely rare blood clots. However, regulators, including the World Health Organization (WHO), have said the vaccine’s overall benefits outweigh any risks.
AstraZeneca’s application for US approval of its shot also takes longer than expected.
But positive results from trials with its antibody marker as a preventative shot against COVID-19 have given AstraZeneca a major boost, potentially positioning it as a provider of both COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The antibody treatment is currently being reviewed.
The creation of the vaccine division, first reported by the Financial Times, indicates that AstraZeneca sees a future for its COVID-19 shot past the pandemic, but should not be seen as a sign that it is a full-scale entry into the broader vaccine market is not planned, Nicholas Hyett, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said.
“It will require significant new research and development investment, and so far we have no indication that it is coming,” he said.
AstraZeneca has undertaken to supply vaccines at cost price during the pandemic. The unprofitable strategy and challenges with the shot sparked speculation as to whether he would want to keep the business in the long run.
The company’s COVID-19 shot is the largest contributor to the WHO – supported COVAX vaccine sharing scheme.
While AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine remained a barrier to profit in the second quarter, sales of the shot more than tripled to $ 894 million from the first three months of the year, making it one of the drugmaker’s top-selling products. .
AstraZeneca will report results for the third quarter on Friday.