Oxford BioMedica has extended its partnership with AstraZeneca, agreeing a new three-year contract to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines if the UK drugmaker presses on with mass production of the jab.

The specialist pharmaceutical manufacturer, which also makes cell and gene therapies, will make its Oxbox facility available on an “as needed” basis to AstraZeneca after 2022. The original contract signed in September 2020 is expected to complete in the last quarter of this year, with Oxford BioMedica recognising roughly £30mn from AstraZeneca this financial year.

Roch Doliveux, chair and interim chief executive of Oxford BioMedica, said he was proud of the work the company had done to deliver more than 100mn doses of the Covid vaccine.

“While contributing to the efforts to fight the pandemic, this has also demonstrated Oxford BioMedica’s ability to expand the scope of our innovative process development services,” he said, adding that it had helped the company’s strategy to expand into producing other delivery mechanisms for vaccines and drugs.

Before AstraZeneca partnered with Oxford university to develop its Covid vaccine, the pharmaceutical company did not have a significant vaccine business. Last year, it formed a new unit including the Covid jab, alongside its nasal flu vaccine and infectious disease treatments, but has not announced a plan to invest in vaccines in the long term.

AstraZeneca is signing for-profit contracts in middle-income countries for the vaccine, but Europe and the UK have so far opted to fuel their booster campaigns with mRNA jabs developed by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.

The US has not yet approved the AstraZeneca vaccine and the company’s head of research and development told the Financial Times in March that it would not necessarily persist in applying for the approval in the world’s largest pharmaceutical market if it finds it is “banging its head against a brick wall indefinitely”.

In the initial trials, the vaccine was less effective than the mRNA rivals, although it offers strong protection against severe disease and death. Some countries abandoned it after it was linked with a very rare blood clotting side effect, and others were disappointed by manufacturing delays at some contractors.

Shares in Oxford BioMedica rose 3.6 per cent to 470.5p in early morning trading in London on Friday. The stock has fallen 62 per cent so far this year, amid a wider sell-off in the biotech market, as investors anticipated a decline or end to the Covid vaccine revenues.

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