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CSL plots millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine shots, including AstraZeneca’s, for Aussie government

Looking to secure enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine frontrunner for its residents, the Australian government signed an expansive supply deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca last month. The Aussies then tapped local drugmaker CSL to chip in on production—and the initial order will tally up to the tens of millions of jabs. 

CSL and its Seqirus vaccine unit will produce a combined 81 million doses of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates—one from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and one from the University of Queensland—to the Australian government beginning in early 2021, the Melbourne-based company said Friday. 

Starting early next year, CSL will churn out 30 million doses of AstraZeneca and Oxford’s adenovirus-based shot, dubbed AZD1222, the company said. The Australian drugmaker will handle local manufacturing through a licensing agreement with AstraZeneca. 

CSL will then aim to produce 51 million doses of the University of Queensland’s vaccine candidate, V451, which is currently in phase 1 human trials.

If the University of Queensland shot succeeds in early testing, CSL will conduct phase 2/b3 testing through market approval, the company said. The Australian drugmaker has already devoted space at its Broadmeadows, Melbourne facility to handle clinical manufacturing of V451 and aims for the first commercial doses to be available in “mid-2021,” according to a release. 

CSL will also receive additional funding from the Australian government to specifically boost its local manufacturing capabilities for AZD1222. The funding arrangement will outfit CSL’s production facilities with the proper equipment and the workforce to produce the shot, the drugmaker said. 

The financial terms of both agreements and the Australian government grant were not disclosed. A CSL spokeswoman could not be reached for comment by press time. 

CSL arose last month as Australia’s manufacturing partner of choice to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the country’s 25 million-strong population. 

That month, Australia and AstraZeneca reached a tentative supply deal that promised to secure enough doses of AZD1222—a frontrunner in the hunt for a vaccine—to cover the nation’s population at no cost. The government then indicated it would work with CSL to help scale up production, eyeing 30 local manufacturing sites as possible factories. 

Meanwhile, CSL has already pledged some of that capacity to produce up to 100 million doses of the Queensland vaccine by the end of 2021, and it will scale up production under a recent deal with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

CSL also plans to outsource some of its shot production work to contract manufacturers to increase dose volume.