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Coronavirus: AstraZeneca donates nine million face masks and steps up Covid-19 drugs research

AstraZeneca is donating nine million face masks to help support healthcare workers around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company has also stepped up its diagnostics testing capabilities and has assigned more than 50 of its scientists to work on monoclonal antibodies that could be used as a treatment to minimise the impact of the coronavirus.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca
Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca

CEO Pascal Soriot said: “Our first thoughts are with those suffering from this global pandemic and with the brave healthcare workers who are caring for them.

“As a company, we have prioritised our response by partnering with international health authorities and others to share our scientific knowledge and expertise, and we have taken this step to donate these masks as we continue to accelerate our efforts on diagnostic testing and a treatment against Covid-19.”

The first face masks have already been sent to Italy, the country worst hit by the crisis.

The Cambridge-based biopharmaceutical company has partnered with the World Economic Forum’s Covid Action Platform, created with the support of the World Health Organisation, to identify the countries in greatest need.

All nine million masks will be manufactured and distributed from China, where AstraZeneca has utilised its strong relationship with the country’s healthcare system and manufacturing sector to accelerate the large-scale production.

It has also accelerated the development of its diagnostic testing capabilities to scale-up screening.

And it is working in partnership with governments on existing screening programmes to supplement testing.

Laboratory work at AstraZeneca. Picture: Marco Betti
Laboratory work at AstraZeneca. Picture: Marco Betti

The company said it would screen its own employees across its manufacturing and supply network to help ensure the continued supply of its medicines to patients.

Meanwhile, its research and development teams are working to identify monoclonal antibodies for clinical trial evaluation as a treatment to prevent Covid-19.

AstraZeneca said it had assigned virology, immunology, respiratory and protein engineering experts across research, clinical, regulatory, and manufacturing to the task.

The company has also made several rounds of financial contributions and donated medicines and personal protective equipment to health organisations in China and several other countries around the world.

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