AstraZeneca, Oxford aim to produce Omicron-targeted vaccine

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FILE PHOTO: A doctor shows vials of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in his general practice facility, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Vienna, Austria

(Reuters) -AstraZeneca Plc said on Tuesday it is working with Oxford University to produce a vaccine for the Omicron coronavirus variant, joining other vaccine-makers who are looking to develop the variant-specific vaccine.

"Together with Oxford University, we have taken preliminary steps in producing an Omicron variant vaccine, in case it is needed and will be informed by emerging data," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.

Oxford did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.

The Financial Times first reported the news, citing Sandy Douglas, a research group leader at Oxford.

"Adenovirus-based vaccines (such as that made by Oxford/AstraZeneca) could in principle be used to respond to any new variant more rapidly than some may previously have realised," Douglas told FT.

A lab-study last week found that AstraZeneca's antibody cocktail Evusheld retained neutralising activity against the Omicron variant.

Vaccine makers Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna also previously said they were working on Omicron- specific COVID-19 vaccines. Moderna said hopes to start clinical trials early next year.

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Vishal Vivek; Editing by Leslie Adler, David Gregorio and Sonya Hepinstall)

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