Vaccitech, the start-up that owns the technology behind the AstraZeneca vaccine, has warned that concerns about the rare blood clotting side-effect could hit royalties and affect the reputation of products in its pipeline.
The Oxford university spinout on Friday published its prospectus for an initial public offering of at least $100m on Nasdaq, at the end of the week in which the UK and several EU countries recommended against giving the vaccine to younger people.
The filing revealed how much the start-up stands to receive from vaccine sales. If and when AstraZeneca starts selling the shot for a profit after the pandemic — which according to their contract could be as early as July 2021 — Oxford will give about a quarter of the royalties it receives from the vaccine to Vaccitech, approximately 1.4 per cent of total net sales.
The company received a one-off payment of $2.5m when it transferred the technology behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine last year.
Vaccitech is developing vaccines for other infectious diseases, including the virus behind shingles and Mers, another coronavirus, as well as using the same vector technology in treatments for cancer and chronic hepatitis.
The pandemic has helped the company prove its technology works in millions of people, when many biotechs go public with little or no data from clinical studies. The rapid development and manufacturing of the AstraZeneca vaccine has also helped prove that Vaccitech’s technology can be scaled speedily.
But while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, known as AZD1222, has been shown to be safe and effective, recent concerns about a very rare side-effect are now weighing on public perception of the shot.
“There can be no assurance that the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events,” the company wrote in the filing.
Vaccitech also warned that studies showing the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the variant first identified in South Africa could impact sales.
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“Any association of AZD1222 with adverse events, or the perception of such association, or any findings that AZD1222 is less effective against certain variants of Covid-19, may reduce sales of AZD1222 and therefore the potential payments that we may receive from net sales of the vaccine, and may otherwise adversely impact the development of, and our ability to commercialise, any of our product candidates,” it said.
Vaccitech’s decision to list in New York is a disappointment for the UK, which is hoping to lure more investment in life sciences. The UK Treasury has a stake in the company, according to people close to the situation.
The largest investor is Oxford Sciences Innovation, an early stage venture capital firm focused on commercialising intellectual property from the university, with a 29 per cent stake before the offering. Other large shareholders include insurer Prudential, with a 13 per cent stake, and entities affiliated with Google Ventures, which hold 6 per cent.