The Radcliffe Camera, part of the main library at Oxford University, England.
Wikimedia Commons
  • The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said Friday that clinic trials on its vaccine for the coronavirus are "progressing very well."
  • 1,000 people have already been inoculated. The next stage will see 10,000 more given the treatment through May and June, Andrew Pollard said.
  • Oxford University has an exclusive deal with the company Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) to commercialise all its research - and a SA fund manager is the largest shareholder in OSI.
  • The group said they hoped for clinical test results in two months, but that it could take as long as six.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said Friday that its clinical trials are "progressing very well" and that the program will inoculate 10,000 new people.

"We are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults," Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said in a press release.

'The clinical studies are progressing very well."

Oxford University has an exclusive deal with the company Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI) to commercialise all its research. OSI automatically receives a half-share of any equity that Oxford University claims in companies set up by its academics. The university has the right to demand up to half the equity in any such companies, which would make OSI's stake 25%.

Currently OSI's biggest shareholder is South African fund manager Sygnia, which also holds a board seat on the company.

READ | South Africans may own a big stake in Oxford’s promising Covid-19 vaccine – eventually

The trial vaccine is called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It was first tested on two humans on April 23 in Oxford, following promising results on six macaque monkeys in the US in March.

1,000 people have since been given the trial vaccine across the UK, but children and those over 55 were excluded.

10,260 new people, including the elderly, will be given the trial vaccine in May and June, the group said. Subjects keep a diary and submit regular blood samples.The group said that results would be available "in a couple of months," but that "it could take up to six months" depending on outside factors.

Progress could be slowed if the UK coronavirus outbreak slows down, because it means fewer test subjects will be exposed naturally to the virus.

To mitigate this potential issue, the group is prioritizing volunteers with "a higher chance of being exposed," like frontline healthcare workers.

The Oxford Vaccine Group is one of a few elite laboratories and facilities leading the race to find a vaccine.

On Monday, the US-based firm Moderna tentatively said that all 45 people given its trial vaccine had created immune responses that could help protect them from the coronavirus.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Disease said he was "cautiously optimistic about it."

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, who are partnered with BioNTech, began trialling its BNT162 vaccine on humans on May 5. It is yet to announce preliminary results.

In total, 12 vaccines in development around the world are in the human trial stage, according to The Associated Press.

Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology working on the Oxford vaccine said on April 11 that the earliest it could be ready was September, but that such a date was very optimistic.

Whether the vaccine is approved or not, it is already in high demand.

The Oxford Vaccine Group is partnered with pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca, and on Thursday, the US government agreed to pay up to $1.2 billion for 300 million doses of the vaccine.

Last month, the world's largest vaccine maker by doses, The Serum Institute of India, said it too would manufacture 40 million doses, without yet knowing whether it works.

"The decision - at our own risk and cost - has been solely taken to get a jump-start on manufacturing," CEO Adar Poonawalla said.

Despite the progress, there are concerns that even when a vaccine becomes available, a global rollout will be hampered by a shortage of the glass vials and lids necessary to distribute the product.

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: