AstraZeneca Earnings Beat Estimates 

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Almost 10,000 people in the U.K. have been given an experimental Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, a key step toward finding a shot that will help control the pandemic.

AstraZeneca is also well on its way to administering shots to 5,000 volunteers in a late-stage trial in Brazil and may scale up the size of its studies there, Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Subjects are being enrolled in South Africa, and a test in the U.S. is about to begin.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is among the leaders in the race to develop an immunization against the coronavirus pandemic that’s killed almost 670,000 people worldwide. The U.K. drugmaker will sell the vaccine at cost during the crisis, and set a low price in poor and middle-income countries when the outbreak is under control, Soriot said. Wealthier nations will have to pay more, he said.

“We intend to make a profit, but a reasonable profit, in the richer countries,” he said in the interview. “Our pricing will be appropriate, it will be reasonable, because we really want people to be able to get vaccinated.”

Price Point

Soriot wouldn’t say what Astra’s vaccine would cost. Last week, the U.S. government said it agreed to a $1.95 billion deal to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE if approved by regulators. That suggests a price of $19.50 a dose, or $39 for a two-dose regimen, though the government will make it free to the public. Like GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Soriot said the company would look to the World Health Organization’s guidance to determine when the pandemic has ended.

A key player in the response, Astra is also testing two of its drugs -- Calquence and Farxiga -- for treatment of Covid-19. Enrollment in the Calquence study is expected to finish by mid-August, with the first readout due in September, Jose Baselga, Astra’s head of cancer research, said Monday in an interview. Several hundred patients have been recruited globally for the Farxiga study, Mene Pangalos, head of biopharma research, told reporters Thursday.

A tie-up with Glaxo and the University of Cambridge to help test more U.K. residents for the deadly coronavirus will continue through the winter, Pangalos said. The group’s capacity is greater than demand, he said.

Sales of drugs for cancer -- Tagrisso, Imfinzi, and Lynparza -- exceeded expectations for the quarter, helping Astra’s results beat analysts’ estimates. The shares rose as much as 3.6% in London.

Enduring Need

Soriot indicated that the need for shots to prevent coronavirus may last for years. The virus may be here to stay, perhaps like the flu, he said in the TV interview. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has also said that demand for coronavirus vaccines may endure.

Astra has committed to starting delivery of 30 million vaccine doses to the U.K. by September and 100 million by the end of the year, and also has supply agreements with the U.S. and EU. The drugmaker is in discussions to supply Japan, Brazil and South Korea with vaccine, Soriot said on a call with reporters.

Concerns about the deadly virus have raised the international race for protection to new levels, with allegations from the U.K. that vaccine developers were a target of Russian cyber-attacks. Russian officials have denied the claims, and AstraZeneca said there’s no evidence it’s been hit.

”We haven’t seen any sign that we have been hacked in the context of this vaccine,” Soriot said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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