AstraZeneca announces global R&D postdoctoral program for complex disease research

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) is looking for final year MD or PhD students and postdoctoral researchers to reach out with ideas to speed drug discovery and development in the company’s core disease areas.

The company’s central focus areas include oncology; cardiovascular, renal and metabolism; and respiratory and immunology.

Candidates accepted into the program have a fully funded postdoctoral research position that gives them access to in-house expertise, access to AstraZeneca’s R&D facilities and support from a partnering university.

Researchers will also get access to compounds, tools and technologies and mentoring.

Sir Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president, biopharmaceuticals R&D highlighted the need to continue accelerating R&D. “Rapid progress in disease understanding, as well as scientific and technological advances are genuinely changing our expectations of what is possible,” Pangalos said. “We are delighted to la…

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COVID-19 vaccines remain a cash cow for now

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

A handful of companies are making billions of dollars in revenues from COVID-19 vaccines. Especially well-positioned is Pfizer, which could earn $33.5 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales this year, as it announced in its Q2 earnings statement. By contrast, J&J has forecasted $2.5 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales this year, while AstraZeneca has seen sales of $1.1 billion in the first half of this year, according to Moody’s.

Analysts are divided, however, on how strong vaccine sales will be in 2022 and beyond.

A report from Moody’s predicts that vaccine sales next year will begin to wane given significant vaccine penetration rates and uncertain demand for boosters. Vaccine penetration rates in many G20 countries have already surpassed 60%. As a result, COVID-19 vaccine revenue i…

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AstraZeneca and European Commission settle COVID-19 vaccine supply lawsuit

The Vaxzevria vaccine uses an adenovirus vector. Image courtesy of AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) and the European Union have agreed to end litigation related to the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria (ChAdOx1-S).

AstraZeneca had initially contracted with the European Commission to provide 300 million doses of its vaccine with an option for another 100 million, but fell short of its commitment.

The level of vaccine doses, however, ultimately trailed initial expectations, leading to tensions between AstraZeneca and the E.U. AstraZeneca vowed to provide an additional 9 million doses in February to diffuse the tensions.

The E.U., however, pursued legal action in April. In the recent settlement, AstraZeneca agreed to provide the E.U. with 300 million doses by the end of March 2022. That sum includes 75 million doses by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. In addition, the company will p…

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Novavax stock surges after striking EU COVID-19 vaccine deal

Novavax (NSDQ:NVAX) saw its stock jump more than 20% in afternoon trading after the European Commission agreed to purchase up to 200 million doses of its vaccine. 

The Gaithersburg, Md.–based vaccine maker announced in March that its NVX-CoV2373 vaccine was 96.4% effective against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain in a U.K. trial. The efficacy in a later trial conducted in the U.S. and Mexico was 90.4%, according to a June NIH press release. 

But the company had been slow to get its vaccine onto the market. In the U.S., the company plans on filing for emergency use authorization in late September. 

Get the full story from our sister site, Drug Discovery & Development.

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AstraZeneca, Pfizer Moderna vaccines fare well against Beta, Gamma and Delta variants in study

A recent Canadian pre-print study found that AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria vaccine was 82% effective in preventing hospitalization or death from the Beta and Gamma SARS-CoV-2 virus variants. Using the same benchmark, its efficacy against the Alpha and Delta variants was 87% and 90%, respectively, 21 days after administering the first dose.

The BNT162b2 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech had a similar efficacy after 21 days. In terms of protecting against the Beta and Gamma variants, a single dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine was 83% effective at protecting against hospitalization and death after 21 days. One dose of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine was 94% effective at the same interval.

A second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine boosted its efficacy considerably. It was 98% effective at preventing hospitalization or death from the Beta and Gamma variants 14 days after the second dose. Its protection against other variants was similar following the second dose.

There wa…

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Mix-and-match COVID vaccines attract support and backlash

Image courtesy of Pexels

Several countries have embraced the idea of using distinct COVID-19 vaccines for the first and second doses. But a death in Korea is fueling concerns about the strategy, and some public authorities have warned against the practice.

Canada, Korea, Thailand and Germany have authorized the use of a heterologous prime-boost COVID-19 vaccination strategy to manage supply constraints.

A police officer in South Korea, however, has died after receiving first an AstraZeneca vaccine dose followed by a Pfizer dose, according to The Korea Times. Health authorities there will investigate the death of the 52-year-old officer, who passed away three days after receiving his second vaccine dose.

A recent preprint study published in The Lancet suggested that combinations of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were effective. Data, however, are preliminary.

Germany, Canada and Thailand…

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NVIDIA debuts supercomputer for healthcare and AI research

Santa Clara, Calif.–based NVIDIA has launched the Cambridge-1, which it hails as “the United Kingdom’s most powerful supercomputer.”

Developed with healthcare applications in mind, NVIDIA invested some $100 million in the supercomputer.

Initial applications of the Cambridge-1 include using AI to improve drug development, explore the causes of dementia and identify genomic-based disease risk factors.

Early users of the Cambridge-1 include AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), GSK (NYSE:GSK), Oxford Nanopore, King’s College London, St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Nanopore Technologies.

AstraZeneca’s focus of the computer will be on creating an open-source transformer-based generative AI model for chemical structures. The model can be used to predict chemical reactions, optimize molecules and generate de novo molecules.

AstraZeneca and NVIDIA are also teaming up to use Cambridge-1 to facilitate digital pathology to accelerate the process of annot…

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Pfizer-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine combinations are effective, study suggests

Doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

British researchers report that using distinct COVID-19 vaccine types for the first and second doses appears to be effective, according to a preprint study in The Lancet.

As global health authorities seek to vaccinate as many people as possible, a potential hurdle is the need to use identical vaccines for the prime and boost stages. Using a so-called heterologous prime-boost vaccination would enable more rapid vaccination, but data about the efficacy of such a strategy have been scarce.

In the recent study, researchers randomized 830 adults 50 and older into eight groups to receive the varying combinations of the AstraZeneca and BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines.

To get a sense of the efficacy of the various combinations, the researchers used a geometric mean ratio (GMR) and geometr…

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Australia COVID-19 vaccine supply limited until August

Australia image from Pixabay.

As the U.S. sees demand plateauing for COVID-19 vaccines, Australia is facing a shortage of both vaccine supplies and healthcare workers.

Australian health officials project that the nation’s vaccination program will face delays from June to July. The slowdown is partly a result of limited shipments of the Pfizer vaccine. Australia expects to receive 1.7 million doses of the vaccine this month and another 2.8 million in July.

Australian officials are also aiming to enlist a greater number of general practitioners to help dispense vaccines later in the summer when supplies are likely to increase.

Like several other countries, Australia has also limited the use of the AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) vaccine over the risk of rare blood clots. Health officials there recently recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine only for adults 60 and older.

Australia’s Chief Medical Office…

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FDA could soon authorize Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for younger adolescents

The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NSDQ:BNTX) appears to be on the cusp of winning regulatory authorization for use in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15, according to several media reports. FDA has authorized the vaccine for people aged 16 and up.

In March, Pfizer submitted clinical trial results to FDA, suggesting the efficacy of the vaccine was 100% for adolescents aged 12 to 15 based on a trial involving more than 2,000 participants. The reactogenicity of the vaccine in younger adolescents was also favorable.

The European Medicines Agency is also considering making the vaccine available to younger adolescents.

The news comes as vaccination rates in the U.S. fall while Europe’s vaccination efforts are picking up pace after months of sputtering.

In the U.S., the availability of the vaccine to children 12 and older would enable widespread vaccination before the beginning of the next school year.

Pfizer and Bio…

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Side effects relatively rare for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine: Study 

A recent study found that only 13.5% of recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NSDQ:BNTX) had systemic side effects after the first dose. That figure climbed to 22.0% after the second dose.

Conversely, just over one-third (33.7%) of recipients of the first dose of vaccine from AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) had systemic side effects, according to the study published in The Lancet.

Among those with a prior COVID-19 infection, however, systemic side effects were 2.9 times more common in recipients of the first Pfizer vaccine than those who were infection naive. For recipients of the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, such side effects were 1.6 times more common in those previously infected with COVID-19.

The study, which involved 627,383 participants, ran from Dec. 8 to March 10.

Local side effects (frequently injection-site pain and tenderness) were more common than systemic events, occurring in 71.9% of recipients of th…

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Study: Single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine cuts infection risk by 65%

[Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash]

One dose of vaccine from Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) or AstraZeneca (LON:AZN) leads to a substantial reduction in infection risk in adults, according to a recent study published in BMJ. 

The study organizers found that recipients of a single dose of either vaccine led to a 57% reduction in asymptomatic infections and a 74% drop in symptomatic disease at least 21 days after vaccination. The overall risk reduction was thus 65%. 

A second dose of the vaccine from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech (NSDQ:BNTX) reduced the risk of infection by 70% in the study. There was insufficient data to assess the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the second dose. 

The researchers concluded that when vaccine supplies are limited, health systems should prioritize vaccinating those who have not yet been infected with COVID-19 while prioritizing giving second doses to those 60 and o…

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