An engineer shows off an experimental vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus that has been tested in the quality control laboratory of the Sinovac Biotech facility in Beijing.
Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – The UK Health Secretary rushed Wednesday to defend AstraZeneca's decision to abandon a closely watched coronavirus vaccine trial on safety grounds. The decision is not necessarily a setback for his development.
AstraZeneca announced Tuesday that the hiatus was due to a potentially unexplained illness in one of its studies. The pharmaceutical giant's shares fell more than 6% after close of trading on Tuesday, and London-listed stocks were down 0.4% as European markets opened on Wednesday.
"It's obviously a challenge for this particular vaccine," Matt Hancock told Sky News when asked about the break in the study.
"It's not the first time the Oxford vaccine has happened and it's a standard process in clinical trials when they find something to investigate," he added.
When asked if this would hold back attempts to find a Covid-19 vaccine, he said, "Not necessarily, it depends on what they find on the investigation."
AstraZeneca told CNBC in a statement Tuesday that the hiatus "is a routine action to be taken whenever any of the studies has a potentially unexplained disease while it is being investigated to ensure the integrity of the studies is preserved remains."
Attempts have been made to speed up the verification process to "minimize any impact on the test schedule".
"We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of behavior in our experiments," said the company.
Jefferies Equity Research analysts said in a release Wednesday that they are "contemplating a short-term stock correction that may turn out to be out of place."
"Temporary dosing breaks in test subjects are standard in clinical studies. In view of the accelerated path to phase III (studies) for the AZN / Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine AZD1222, we do not consider it surprising that a serious adverse event requires a study stop for investigation triggered when drug-related. "
AstraZeneca began its study late last month and is one of three companies currently in the late-stage on a potential vaccine. The other two are Pfizer and Moderna, both of which started trials in late July.
– Berkeley Lovelace Jnr. From CNBC. contributed to this article.