AstraZeneca still aiming for Covid-19 vaccine by year-end, CEO says
AstraZeneca Plc Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said the coronavirus vaccine the company is developing with the University of Oxford could still be ready before the end of the year after pausing its trials due to a possible serious neurological problem in one patient.
Speaking at an online conference on Thursday, Soriot sought to reassure investors after the company and its partner confirmed earlier this week that they had temporarily stopped giving patients the experimental shot.
The trial was halted after a person in the UK who was participating in it got sick, triggering a review of safety data. Though such interruptions are common in vaccine studies, the drugmaker and its boss are facing questions about what exactly caused the issue and whether it could be related to the shot.
“What we have here is a special set of circumstances where the whole world becomes involved in the conduct of a clinical trial,” Soriot said in his first public comments since the trial was halted. The decision on whether to resume the study is in the hands of a group of independent experts working to understand whether the patient’s illness was a coincidence or a result of the vaccine. “The reality is we all have to be very patient and see how it unfolds,” he said.
Astra shares were little changed in London.
It’s still not clear whether the patient has a condition called transverse myelitis, a suspected diagnosis, Soriot said.
The CEO, speaking at a Tortoise Media event on Thursday, said he can’t evaluate the length of the trial pause. When tests are complete, the physicians will share the data with the safety committee, he said.
US National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told a Senate committee on Wednesday the trial had been halted due to a “spinal cord problem”. AstraZeneca is one of several drug companies taking part in the US government’s Operation Warp Speed program to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine.
Russia on Monday said there was an agreement to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. "An agreement has been reached on the removal of the wounded," news agency Reuters quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying in a statement. Russia attacked the port city of Mariupol – which it now claims to controls – for nearly two months.
The confirmed number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It is roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It’s as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.
Sweden's Social Democrat minority government on Monday took the formal decision to apply for NATO membership, following in the footsteps of its neighbour Finland in a move that will redraw the geopolitical map of northern Europe. "There is a broad majority in Sweden's parliament for joining NATO," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said following a debate on security policy in parliament. "The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO."
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said the island nation's economy was in a precarious condition and that the cash-strapped nation was currently out of petrol. He also proposed privatising the Sri Lanka airlines. “At present, the Sri Lankan economy is extremely precarious. Although the former government's budget projected revenue of SLR 2.3 trillion, SLR 1.6 trillion is the realistic projection of this year's revenue,” the PM said in Colombo.
According to an AFP report, Swedish public support for NATO membership has risen to nearly 50 per cent in the aftermath of the Ukraine war. The situation is the same in Finland, with the AFP report revealing that the number of Finns who want to join NATO has climbed to more than three-quarters - almost triple the level before the Ukraine war.