AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said despite a temporary halt on its COVID-19 vaccine trial due to safety concerns, the company believes it could still make the vaccine available for commercial use by the end of the year, or in early 2021.
During an address at an event hosted by media group Tortoise, Soriot said he was optimistic that the crucial timeline could still be maintained, according to The Guardian.
He said, “I still think we are on track for having a set of data that we would submit before the end of the year.”
Last week, AstraZeneca suspended its Phase III clinical trial following a report that one of the participants developed symptoms similar to a serious neurological condition called transverse myelitis, a spinal inflammatory condition.
Earlier this summer, Soriot revealed this week that the trial was suspended when another patient fell ill, who was ultimately diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was later determined that the vaccine was not related to any symptoms.
It is common for clinical trials, particularly the large ones, to be suspended for some time so researchers can assess any potential safety issues.
The world is watching drug companies like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, among others that are rapidly developing experimental vaccines against COVID-19, which has so far killed more than 928,000 people globally.
Regarding the halting of the trial, Soriot said, “It’s very common, actually, and many experts will tell you this. The difference with other vaccine trials is the whole world is not watching them. They stop, they study and they restart.”
Nevertheless, Soriot remains optimistic about the company’s ability to complete the study and make the COVID-19 vaccine available by 2020.
The question remains when the trial will resume, which remains uncertain until the researchers assess the patient.
Soriot said the company is putting “science, safety and the interests of society” at the center of its work. “We will be guided by this committee as to when the trials could restart so that we can continue our work at the earliest opportunity to provide this vaccine broadly, equitably, and at no profit during this pandemic,” he added.