Coronavirus vaccine to be manufactured at Keele University

A vaccine to combat COVID-19 is set to be manufactured at Keele University, following an agreement between Cobra Biologics and AstraZeneca UK.

Cobra, which has two facilities on the University’s Science and Innovation Park, has signed a supply agreement with the global pharmaceutical giant to manufacture vaccine candidate AZD1222, previously known as ChAdOX1 n-CoV-19.

The production agreement is part of a programme with the University of Oxford to ensure broad and equitable supply of the vaccine throughout the world, at no profit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agreement is a further development of Cobra’s announcement in March 2020, where it confirmed that it was working as part of a consortium with the Jenner Institute, University of Oxford, and others, to rapidly develop, scale-up and produce a vaccine against COVID-19.

Cobra, along with other consortium members, is providing large-scale manufacturing capacity for the vaccine, with first deliveries to begin in the UK in September 2020.

Peter Coleman, Chief Executive at Cobra Biologics, said: “I am extremely proud of the contribution made by the Cobra team alongside our consortium partners and, despite the current restrictive requirements in place, the progress being made with demanding timelines is outstanding. 

“Cobra’s considerable expertise in GMP viral vector scale up and manufacture will be critical to a successful manufacturing campaign.  The agreement with AstraZeneca comes at an opportune time for us as we bring three additional viral vector suites online as part of our ongoing advanced therapies expansion programme.”

News of Cobra’s manufacturing agreement comes less than two weeks after Keele University announced that it has joined a key national programme to evaluative pioneering diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.

The University is supporting the second part of the REACT-2 programme, led by Imperial College London, which will see new diagnostic tests trialled in a temporary testing centre on the Keele campus.

The study will help evaluate novel ways of detecting Covid-19 antigens and antibodies and assess how well these tests can be adapted to a home testing environment without assistance from a healthcare professional.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Keele University Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: “I am delighted that the University is able to support these two pivotal activities in the fight against COVID-19.  Not only are we working with Imperial College to evaluate tests that will ultimately guide the Government’s planning for testing on a national scale, but a potentially game-changing vaccine against the virus is also set to be manufactured at Keele by one of our longest-serving tenants.

“These programmes have the potential to significantly influence the future management of the virus both in the UK and across the world, and I am proud that Keele and its partners are able to contribute to this global fight.” 

For more information on what Keele University is doing as part of the national effort to tackle COVID-19, click here.

Image: Carl Recine, Reuters.  Manufacture of COVID-19 vaccine candidate