June 24, 2020 / 12:43 PM / 13 days ago

AstraZeneca taps Scottish firm for tenth COVID-19 vaccine supply deal

FILE PHOTO: The logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has signed its tenth supply-and-manufacturing deal for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine with a Scotland-backed firm as the British drugmaker ramps up efforts for wider trials of the potential treatment.

Symbiosis Pharmaceutical said on Wednesday it agreed to make and supply an unspecified number of units of the vaccine, AZD1222, for AstraZeneca to use in clinical trials. The companies did not provide any financial terms of the deal.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot last month warned that the company was running out of time to effectively test the vaccine as the number of cases decline in Europe.

Brazil last week became the first country outside of the UK to begin human testing of the vaccine AstraZeneca licensed from the University of Oxford. About 3,000 people in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have enrolled for trials.

Scotland’s economic development agency, Scottish Enterprise, supported the establishment of Symbiosis Pharmaceutical in 2011 and provided it with capital.

“It is fantastic to see the continued success of Symbiosis in Scotland, and I applaud the vital work they are undertaking,” Scotland’s Trade Minister Ivan McKee said in a statement.

AstraZeneca has doubled manufacturing and supply capacity for its potential coronavirus vaccine to over 2 billion doses with deals such as those involving Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates-backed firms and India’s Serum Institute.

There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the illness caused by the new coronavirus, but about a dozen vaccines from more than 100 candidates globally are being tested in humans.

Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Sriraj Kalluvila

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