AstraZeneca partners with University of Michigan for COVID-19 vaccine trials

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan Medicine announced Tuesday it is partnering with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to bring phase 3 clinical trials to test a vaccine against COVID-19.

The study, dubbed AZD1222, will test how well the vaccine works and how safe it is, the University of Michigan said.

The university will begin recruiting hundreds of participants immediately. The university is one of several U.S. sites for the trial, with an aim of including 30,000 over the next two years.

A University of Michigan technician works on developing a potential test for the coronavirus at the Michigan Medicine microbiology laboratory in Ann Arbor. March 2020

"The importance of a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 cannot be overstated," said Dr. Marschall Runge, dean of the UM Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine. "The AstraZeneca Phase III trial will bring answers as to the effectiveness of this vaccine. At the end of the day, this kind of rigorous clinical trial with the commitment of Michigan Medicine and other study sites to safety will be a key step in realizing a vaccine that will save lives when one is developed."

The AstraZeneca trial is one of several vaccine studies being funded by public-private partnerships under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called Operation Warp Speed.

“We are proud to advance the University of Michigan's outstanding legacy of excellence in vaccine trials with this important clinical trial partnership. We hope one day soon to be able to announce a successful vaccine against COVID-19 and save lives,” UM President Mark Schlissel said in a statement.

More than 1,000 vaccine trials were completed earlier this year during the first two phases and "demonstrated increased antibody responses against SARS-CoV-2 and no serious adverse effects," the university said.

The study, led by Oxford University, showed a single dose of AZD1222 was returned with a four-fold increase in antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spiked protein in 95% of participants one month after injection.

"In all participants, a T-cell response was induced, peaking by day 14, and maintained two months after injection," according to AstraZeneca.

Volunteers for the study must be 18 or older, be in good health (those with underlying medical conditions can still take part) and not have previously gotten a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

There is another coronavirus vaccine candidate in Michigan with clinical trials taking place at Henry Ford Health System. The Detroit-based hospital began testing the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine on volunteers one month ago.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_