AstraZeneca to test vaccine combo with Russia’s Sputnik as Glaxo’s effort falters

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AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN ) is to start testing the COVID-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University alongside Russia’s Sputnik V alternative to see if a combination is more effective.

Russian scientists have claimed that as the two are both common-cold based treatments combining them would greatly enhance the Astra vaccine, but western scientists had expressed doubts given the speed of Sputnik V’s development.

In a statement, AstraZeneca confirmed it was assessing how combinations of different vaccines would work and expected to start work shortly with the Gamaleya Institute, the Russian laboratory that developed Sputnik V.

According to RDIF, the Russian sovereign wealth fund that has backed the Sputnik V project, trials of a vaccine combination will start before the end of 2020 and might involve people receiving one shot of each.

“The decision by AstraZeneca to carry out clinical trials using one of two vectors of Sputnik V in order to increase its own vaccine’s efficacy is an important step towards uniting efforts in the fight against the pandemic,” said RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev in a statement.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine had mixed results in a phase III trial with one group of patients returning over 90% efficacy after receiving a lower than a dose than another group that saw 62% effectiveness.

The UK pharma originally suggested this was due to a mistake in dosing but is now investigating how the results differed.

US regulators are said to have also expressed reservations about the results.

The news came on a mixed day for vaccine headlines with Britain’s other flagship pharma company GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) having to put back the timeline on its COVID-19 vaccine.

Glaxo, which is working with French group Sanofi, said trials showed its candidate generated only a low immune response in the over-fifties age group and it is having to redraw its plans to boost its effectiveness in what is considered the age group most susceptible to the virus.

Britain has already started a mass vaccination programme using a treatment developed by German group BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.

Reports in the US overnight indicated that an advisory panel of US regulator the FDA had approved the vaccine for use or effectively given it approval.

A vaccination programme could start in the US within days following the committee’s recommendation and the final nod from the FDA 

Canada has also approved the pioneering BioNTech mRNA treatment.

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