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Pharmaceuticals

Japan in talks to secure coronavirus vaccine from AstraZeneca

Daiichi Sankyo to distribute doses if UK development is successful

AstraZeneca aims to supply Japan with a vaccine in cooperation with its group companies, Daiichi Sankyo and Meiji Holdings.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo is in discussions to secure Japan supplies of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Daiichi Sankyo announced in a news release that a subsidiary in Saitama Prefecture would receive undiluted solution of the potential vaccine known as AZD1222 and then carry out formulation work, packaging and storage in Japan.

Said to be among the closest to completion among the potential vaccines for COVID-19 under development around the world, the inoculation could become available in Japan as early as next spring.

According to AstraZeneca, KM Biologics, a group company of Meiji Holdings, would also be involved in handling Japan supplies of the potential vaccine. The British company will also utilize the vaccine distribution and supply assets of Meiji Seika Pharma, another Meiji Holdings group company.

Clinical trials of the vaccine are underway.

AstraZeneca and Oxford University intend to manufacture 2 billion doses a year and have announced plans to bring the vaccine to market as early as September once efficacy is confirmed in the clinical trials.

The government is supporting domestic vaccine development but is also negotiating with AstraZeneca and other suppliers, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier on Friday. "In any event, the government will work hard to ensure that Japan has the vaccines it needs," he said.

Domestic drugmaker AnGes is collaborating with Osaka University on a DNA vaccine for COVID-19, while Shionogi & Co. is working on a recombinant protein type. Daiichi Sankyo is also developing an mRNA version with the University of Tokyo.

Human trials are underway for about a dozen vaccines from more than 100 candidates, though none have been approved.

Noriyuki Takada in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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