The Australian government will fund CSL to help get its facilities ready to make the University of Oxford’s coronavirus vaccine onshore if successful, after the company inked deals to make more than 80 million vaccine doses.

The agreements cement CSL as Australia’s core manufacturer for successful vaccines that come to market, with the $130 billion biotech looking to release doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca product by early 2021 if it works.

CSL Behring's production facilities in Broadmeadows, Victoria. CSL will be key to onshore manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines after a heads of agreement was signed with the Australian government.

CSL Behring’s production facilities in Broadmeadows, Victoria. CSL will be key to onshore manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines after a heads of agreement was signed with the Australian government. Credit:Joe Armao

CSL announced two vaccine development agreements on Monday morning. A deal with the Australian Government will see it produce 50 million doses of the University of Queensland’s vaccine candidate if successful which CSL has already committed to as its top priority. It’s hoped those doses will be available mid-2021.

An agreement with British-Swedish pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca will see CSL also make 30 million doses of the vaccine candidate developed at Oxford. The Oxford candidate is much further along in development that the UQ option and is currently in phase 3 trials. CSL said “first doses [were] scheduled for release early 2021, following successful clinical trials”.

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CSL chief executive Paul Perreault had previously told this masthead juggling the production of these two vaccines was not a simple task as they require different approaches. The Oxford candidate is an adenovirus vaccine model and requires specific safety requirements to manufacture at scale.

On Monday the company confirmed the federal government had committed to backing CSL so it was ready to produce the Oxford/AstraZeneca option onshore.

“This funding will be used to establish at-risk components required to produce the commercial manufacture of a recombinant vector-based COVID-19 vaccine, including the acquisition of specialised equipment, recruitment, training and redeployment of personnel and retooling and reconfiguration of existing manufacturing facilities,” the company said in a statement.

Mr Perreault highlighted on Monday morning that CSL was Australia’s only bet for onshore manufacturing.

“Acknowledging that CSL is the only company in Australia with manufacturing facilities
capable of producing this vaccine, we thank the Australian Government for their support,
ensuring Australia has access to onshore COVID-19 vaccine production and supply,” he said.

Both deals assume that two doses will be required per person in order to be effective.

More to come

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