STAT News reported earlier this week that AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot said during a private conference call that the “potentially unexplained illness” occurred in a woman in the U.K. who displayed neurological symptoms consistent with a spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis. The call was set up by investment bank J.P. Morgan, STAT reported.
On the same call, Soriot also confirmed that AstraZeneca’s clinical trials had been halted once before in July after a participant experienced neurological symptoms, but the illness was found to be unrelated to the experimental vaccine.
AstraZeneca’s potential coronavirus vaccine, called AZD1222, is among the frontrunners in the race toward a safe and effective vaccine that could put a dent in the global pandemic. The company launched its late-stage trials at the end of August. It’s one of at least three vaccine candidates, along with Pfizer‘s and Moderna‘s, in late-stage trials.
Officials from the World Health Organization have previous hailed AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate as one of the most promising currently in development. On Thursday, WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said there’s no need to be “overly discouraged” by the news of the pause of the trial, adding that “these things happen.”
“I think this is a good … perhaps a wake-up call or a lesson for everyone to recognize the fact that there are ups and downs in research, there are ups and downs in clinical development and we have to be prepared for those,” she said.
The United States has invested more than $10 billion in six efforts to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market. On May 21, the U.S. announced it would invest $1.2 billion in AstraZeneca’s effort in exchange for at least 300 million doses if the candidate proves safe and effective enough.
AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine clinical trials resume in U.K. after pause over safety concerns – CNBC