A view of the AstraZeneca logo, on a building, in South San Francisco, California. Image Credit: AP

London: British-Swedish multinational biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Thursday announced it has reached a licensing agreement with Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply one billion doses of University of Oxford's potential Covid-19 vaccine, AZD1222, for low-and-middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million before the end of 2020.

In addition, it reached a $750 million agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the Vaccine Alliance called Gavi to support the manufacturing, procurement and distribution of 300 million doses of AZD1222 vaccine, with delivery starting by the end of the year.

"We are working tirelessly to honour our commitment to ensure broad and equitable access to Oxford's vaccine across the globe and at no profit. Today marks an important step in helping us supply hundreds of millions of people around the world, including to those in countries with the lowest means," said Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca.

Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer, SII, said that the Serum Institute of India is delighted to partner with AstraZeneca in bringing this vaccine to India as well as low-and-middle-income countries.

"Over the past 50 years, SII has built significant capability in vaccine manufacturing and supply globally. We will work closely with AstraZeneca to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine in these countries," he said.

Together, the agreements mark the latest commitments to enable global access to the vaccine, including to low-and-middle-income countries, beyond the company's recent partnerships with the UK and US.

The Cambridge-based company is building a number of supply chains in parallel across the world to support global access at no profit during the pandemic and has so far secured manufacturing capacity for two billion doses of the potential vaccine, it said in a statement.

AstraZeneca recently agreed to supply 400 million doses to the US and UK after reaching a licence agreement with Oxford University for its potential vaccine.

Oxford University recently announced the start of a Phase II/III trial of AZD1222 in about 10,000 adult volunteers.

Other late-stage trials are due to begin in a number of countries. AstraZeneca recognises that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical programme with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk.

The agreement with CEPI and Gavi also represents the first advanced market commitment through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global mechanism co-chaired by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI, said: "AstraZeneca is admirably committed to equitable global access for this vaccine, and this partnership demonstrates how the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility will bring the private, public and third sectors together to make COVID-19 vaccines available to those who need them most, for the benefit of all."

Additionally, AstraZeneca has quickly moved into testing of new and existing medicines to treat the infection, including CALAVI, ACCORD and DARE-19 trials underway for patients with Covid-19.

"We encourage other vaccine manufacturers to work with us towards the shared global goal of finding solutions for this unprecedented pandemic," said Dr Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi.

Over 100 vaccines are currently in the race to end the Covid-19 pandemic that has affected over 6.5 million people globally.