GENEVA (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine COVID-19 is probably the world’s leading candidate and the most advanced in development terms, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
The British pharmacist has already started conducting large-scale human trials in the intermediate stage of the vaccine, which was developed by researchers at the University of Oxford.
This week AstraZeneca signed its tenth supply and manufacturing agreement.
“Certainly, in terms of how advanced they are, the stage they are at, I think they are probably the main candidates,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a press conference.
“So they may have results pretty soon.”
Swaminathan said Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate was “not too far” from AstraZeneca, among more than 200 candidates, 15 of whom have entered clinical trials.
“We know that the Moderna vaccine will also enter phase three of clinical trials, probably starting in mid-July, and that the vaccine candidate is not far behind,” he said.
“But I think AstraZeneca certainly has a more global reach right now in terms of where they are doing and planning their vaccine trials.”
The WHO is in talks with multiple Chinese manufacturers, including Sinovac, about possible vaccines, as well as with Indian researchers, Swaminathan said.
He called on drug makers to consider collaborating on the COVID-19 vaccine trials, similar to the ongoing WHO solidarity trial for drugs. A WHO-led coalition fighting the pandemic on Friday asked government and private sector donors to help raise $ 31.3 billion over the next 12 months to develop and deliver tests, treatments, and vaccines for the disease. The initiative is called ACT-Accelerator.
Andrew Witty, Special Envoy for ACT-Accelerator, said it was important to consider a “portfolio of research efforts” for vaccines.
“It is still very early on this trip, we can be very lucky, which would be fantastic, and have an early victory,” said Witty. “Even if it takes an unprecedented 12 to 18 months, the rapid global development of the vaccine.”
For a FACTBOX on the vaccine race:
(Report by Stephanie Nebehay and Kate Kelland; written by Stephanie Nebehay, edited by Mark Potter)