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With AZ deal, Operation Warp Speed takes first step to train guns on coronavirus

Initiative unveils first investment: up to $1.2B in a COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca has licensed from Oxford

Operation Warp Speed, along with its promises and dangers, is coming into sharp focus. Its investment of up to $1.2 billion in a COVID-19 vaccine candidate is testimony to the risks it is prepared to take. Its biggest weapon is the U.S. military expertise that it is bringing to the fight.

In a deal announced May 21, Operation Warp Speed -- the Trump administration’s program to accelerate COVID-19 countermeasures -- gains access to the vaccine AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1 nCoV-19) that AstraZeneca plc (LSE:AZN; NYSE:AZN) licensed from the University of Oxford.

The deal brings together multiple U.S. government agencies and is predicated on taking substantial financial risks, especially by committing to manufacture a vaccine that hasn’t been tested.

In addition to financial risk, the U.S. government’s statements that it could make the vaccine, AZD1222, available on an emergency use basis as early as the fall and more widely in early 2021, suggests a willingness to bet on large-scale use of a vaccine with very little safety data.

Under the arrangement, BARDA could “provide up to $1.2 billion to support, in parallel, advanced clinical studies, vaccine manufacturing technology transfer, process development, scaled-up manufacturing, and other

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