AstraZeneca Plc said that it had paused research on its experimental coronavirus vaccine after a person who was participating in a clinical trial became ill.
The vaccine, which AstraZeneca is developing with researchers from the University of Oxford, has been viewed as one of the leading candidates to reach the market. The decision to tap the brakes jolted investors, sending AstraZeneca’s U.S.-traded shares down sharply, while boosting the stocks of some rivals developing different potential Covid-19 shots.
“This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials,” AstraZeneca spokesperson Michele Meixell said in a statement.
Meixell said that the company was working to expedite its review of the incident in order to keep the trial moving along. Companies have been racing to find a Covid-19 vaccine quickly in hopes of blunting the pandemic as another flu season looms in the Northern Hemisphere.
News of the trial setback was first reported by STAT.
In late trading in New York, AstraZeneca shares fell as much as 8.3%, while Moderna Inc. and BioNTech SE saw their shares rise. All three companies are participating in Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s program to accelerate the discovery and distribution of a viable inoculation.
Oxford University’s Jenner Institute didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
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