AstraZeneca is exploring options for the future of its Covid-19 vaccine business and expects greater clarity on the matter by the end of 2021, a senior executive told Reuters on Thursday.
The comments are the first time the drugmaker has publicly confirmed that it is reviewing the future of the business after a series of setbacks in its race to develop a shot for the world.
AstraZeneca agreed to work with the University of Oxford on its Covid-19 shot last year despite having no prior vaccine experience, taking on the project with a pledge not to make a profit during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are exploring different options," AstraZeneca Executive Vice President and President of the BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit Ruud Dobber said, referring to the vaccines business.
"Before year-end, we will have more clarity... if you ask me, is the vaccine business a sustainable business for AstraZeneca for the next five or 10 years, that big strategic question is under discussion."
Dobber said that AstraZeneca was committed to delivering a massive rollout of hundreds of millions of doses that were covered by current contracts.
But he added that a "small group of people reporting into Mene (Pangalos, research chief) and myself are thinking about (whether this is) a sustainable business."
"We need to have that discussion with our senior executive team, and then with the board of AstraZeneca," he said.
"We are exploring different options, but it is far too early at this stage to conclude that (process)."