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UPDATE: Astra's vaccine an effective booster; finds new Oncology head

Mon, 28th Jun 2021 12:37

(Alliance News) - AstraZeneca PLC on Monday said new research suggests a third shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could be an effective booster jab without the need for tweaks.

An Oxford University study found that giving people a third dose more than six months after their second led to a substantial rise in antibodies and increased the body's T-cell ability to fight coronavirus, including its variants.

Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said it is not yet known whether people will need a booster shot in the autumn but the new data shows the existing vaccine could be effective.

He said real-world data from Public Health England has already shown that two doses offer good protection against hospital admission and death from the Alpha Kent variant and the Delta variant first identified in India.

With two doses currently preventing more than 90% of hospital admissions with Covid, he said it is "difficult to say" whether a third dose could add a few more percent.

But he added: "Boosters are much more about if protection gets lost over time – and we don't know that – but if it does, could you boost? And the answer to that from these data is yes, you could.

"There's no indication today that we need boosters, and it is something where we need to keep looking at the data and make decisions as the months go by, about whether that protection that we have is lost."

In the preprint study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, some 90 people received a third dose of the vaccine, which was well-tolerated in terms of side-effects.

The study also found that a longer delay of up to 45 weeks between the first and second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine leads to enhanced immune response.

The experts said this is an important finding for countries with limited vaccine supply.

Also on Monday, Astra appointed Susan Galbraith as executive vice president of oncology research, after the passing of Jose Baselga earlier this year.

The Cambridge, England-based pharmaceutical company said Galbraith, who joined the company in 2010, will takeover Oncology Research & Development and join its senior executive team with immediate effect.

"Galbraith has over 20 years of experience in drug discovery and development with a background as a clinical oncologist," the company said.

Formerly, Galbraith was senior vice-president and head of research and early development for oncology as Astra. To date, Galbraith has overseen the development of seven programmes to Phase III trials, including four new and approved cancer medications.

AstraZeneca focuses on developing a pipeline of therapies for particularly complex cancers.

Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said: "Over the past decade at AstraZeneca, [Galbraith] has developed new medicines that have transformed care and improved the lives of patients around the world. She is also an exceptional leader who, together with her high-performing team, will continue to rapidly advance our exciting oncology pipeline and execute the strategy that Susan helped to devise with Jose Baselga. Susan's experience, energy, and passion for investing in the next generation of scientists will be invaluable to AstraZeneca’s next chapter of growth."

Currently, Galbraith serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the The Institute of Cancer Research in London and on the European Association of Cancer Research Advisory Council. Also, in 2021 Galbraith was elected to the board of directors of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Earlier Monday the pharma giant said its Forxiga drug has been approved in the EU for the treatment of chronic kidney disease.

AstraZeneca shares were trading up 1.2% at 8,600.00 pence each in London on Monday afternoon.

By Scarlett Butler; scarlettbutler@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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