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AstraZeneca chief credits Oxford vaccine with UK's Covid-19 fight

Soriot was speaking as his company unveiled a major state-of-the-art research and development facility in Cambridge

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Vaccine | AstraZeneca

Press Trust of India  |  London 

Pascal Soriot
Pascal Soriot (Photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

The Chief Executive of Anglo-Swedish biopharma major AstraZeneca, which helped produce the Oxford University's vaccine to protect against COVID-19, on Tuesday credited it for the UK's relatively better hospitalisation rates amid the pandemic wave hitting Europe.

Pascal Soriot said the Oxford/vaccine, being developed and administered in India as Covishield, was initially not used by the European Union (EU) for older age groups due to some doubts cast around efficacy.

While in Britain the vaccine was widely used in the early stages for the most vulnerable and older age groups, the EU had chosen other vaccines instead. Its medical regulator approved the use of the Oxford/vaccine for all age groups only in January.

It's really interesting when you look at the UK. There was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalisations relative to Europe, Soriot told the BBC.

In the UK [the Oxford/AstraZeneca] vaccine was used to vaccinate older people whereas in Europe people thought initially the vaccine doesn't work in older people. I'm not saying there was any mistake done by anybody, I'm just saying that there's a lot of data that still need to be made available that we don't have, he said.

He elaborated on the two dimensions to the body's immune response to COVID-19, one being the antibody response and the other the so-called T-cell response, which might provide some explanation for differences in hospitalisation rates between countries at a time when many European countries such as Austria and Germany are witnessing major healthcare pressures from COVID infections.

He explained: "The antibody response is what drives the immediate reaction or defence of the body when you're attacked by the virus. And the T-cell response takes a little longer to come in. But it's actually more durable. It lasts longer.

"And the body remembers that longer. So, you see on to everybody's focused on antibodies, but antibodies you see them decline over time as soon as the virus attacks you, they [T-cells] wake up and they come to the rescue and the defend you and but it takes them a little while so you may be infected, but then they come to the rescue and you don't get hospitalised."

The UK's daily infection rate on Monday was also high, at 41,365, but it is hoped that hospitalisations and deaths can maintain a current lower trend.

Soriot was speaking as his company unveiled a major state-of-the-art research and development facility in Cambridge. The new 1-billion pounds Discovery Centre (DISC), unveiled by Prince Charles, will include the most advanced robotics, high-throughput screening and artificial intelligence (AI) driven technology.

It is designed to support AstraZeneca's focus on specialised and precision medicines and foster the discovery and development of next generation therapeutics, including nucleotide-based, gene-editing and cell therapies.

Our ambition today is to not only unveil a building, but to also drive the next wave of scientific innovation. Our new Discovery Centre in Cambridge raises the bar for sustainable R&D and global collaboration across our industry. It will allow us to break new boundaries in the understanding of disease biology, bring life-changing medicines to patients and power the next stage of our company's growth, said Soriot.

Located within the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the physical proximity of the building's laboratories to leading hospitals, the University of Cambridge, other research institutions and a number of biotech companies are expected to promote a culture of open partnership and innovation.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Wed, November 24 2021. 01:58 IST