AstraZeneca Licenses Covid Candidate to China

07.08.2020 - In a much heeded licensing deal, AstraZeneca (AZ) has awarded Chinese pharma BioKangta sole commercial rights to its AZD1222 Covid-19 vaccine candidate in the People’s Republic. The UK drugmaker is developing the adenovirus vector-based vaccine on behalf of Oxford University, which created it.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed. AstraZeneca said the two companies additionally will explore the possibility of jointly producing the vaccine in China for other markets.

Along with commercialization rights, BioKangta will also have the right to exclusive clinical development and production in its home market. In exchange, the Chinese company will reserve enough capacity to make at least 100 million doses by the end of 2020 and expand this to 200 million doses per year by the end of 2021.

Altogether, AZ hopes to produce 2 billion doses of the vaccine worldwide by the end of 2021. It has already pledged to supply 300 million doses to each to the US and the EU, as well as 100 million doses to the UK and up to 100 million doses to Brazil. 

The drugmaker also has signed a manufacturing and distribution agreement with R-Pharm in Russia and with the Serum Institute of India to provide an unspecified number of doses for for low-income countries.

SK Bioscience, part of the Korean SK conglomerate, recently signed up to produce the AZ Covid candidate in its home market, and Daiichi Sankyo has confirmed it is in discussions to supply the vaccine in Japan.

The candidate, which entered phase 2/3 clinical trials in May, has been shown to trigger both antibody and T-cell immune responses and has received praise from US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci.

The British pharma is seen as one of the leading Western players on the Chinese drugs market, the company’s second largest behind the US, accounting for about 20% of its business.

The AZ/Oxford Covid vaccine is only the third foreign candidate in which China has shown an interest, trade journal Fierce Pharma said. Fosun Pharma holds Chinese rights to BioNTech’s mRNA program through a $135 million agreement, while Inovio has partnered with Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology on a DNA vaccine candidate with the working title of INO-4800. China is also developing its own vaccines.