AstraZeneca, Daiichi Sankyo working on Japanese supply deal for COVID-19 vaccine hopeful

AstraZeneca manufacturing employee
AstraZeneca is hoping to churn out 2 billion doses per year of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine candidate. (AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca has picked up manufacturing partners at a rapid clip with a goal to produce 2 billion doses per year of the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine candidate. And it may be close to adding to that partner list: The British drugmaker and Daiichi Sankyo are in talks to knock together a supply deal for Japan. 

AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo are chipping away at a Japanese supply deal for Oxford's adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, that would include fill-finish and storage duties, Daiichi said Friday. 

The supply talks come after AstraZeneca and the Japanese government agreed to sit down at the negotiating table to discuss a possible deal, Daiichi said. Daiichi Sankyo Biotech, a subsidiary of the Japanese drugmaker, plans to receive Oxford's undiluted vaccine, which it will finish at its own facilities. 

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At the same time, Daiichi pledged to continue its work on developing an inhaled formulation of anticoagulant nafamostat, which the drugmaker is testing to treat COVID-19, as well as a separate mRNA vaccine candidate co-developed with the University of Tokyo, Daiichi said. 

Reaching a deal with Daiichi would add the latest in a string of manufacturing deals to AstraZeneca's goal of reaching 2 billion doses per year of Oxford's highly touted vaccine candidate. 

RELATED: AstraZeneca taps Catalent for COVID-19 vaccine finishing, packaging at Italian plant

Earlier this month, Catalent agreed to produce "hundreds of millions of doses" of AstraZeneca's hopeful at its 305,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Anagni, Italy. It would not disclose financial terms of the deal, a spokesman said, but it's scheduled to begin producing those doses in August 2020 and to potentially continue through March 2022 if the vaccine receives full regulatory approval. 

Before that, in early June, AstraZeneca and Emergent BioSolutions inked an $87 million deal to manufacture doses of Oxford's adenovirus-based COVID-19 shot for U.S. supply. The accord was part of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed initiative to develop and rapidly scale production of targeted vaccines before the end of 2020.

As part of the agreement, Emergent pledged to reserve large-scale manufacturing capacity for AZD1222 at its Baltimore Bayview facility through 2020. The company will also provide contract development manufacturing services to aid AstraZeneca's shot manufacturing goals, Emergent said.

RELATED: AstraZeneca unveils massive $750M deal in effort to produce billions of COVID-19 shots

AstraZeneca also inked a deal with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to manufacture and distribute 300 million doses of Oxford's vaccine by the end of 2020.

Separately, AZ agreed to a licensing deal with the Serum Institute of India to provide 1 billion doses of the vaccine to low- and middle-income countries, with the goal of 400 million produced by year-end. In total, the deals bring AstraZeneca's overall supply capacity for Oxford's vaccine to more than 2 billion doses per year, the drugmaker said.

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