Biotech giant CSL says it has accelerated the manufacture of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with the first doses planned for release in late March.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration earlier this week.
Releasing its half-year results, CSL reported a 44 per cent increase in net profit after tax of $1.8 billion, with exceptionally strong performance noted in its Seqirus influenza division driven by record demand.
CSL declared an interim dividend of $1.04 per share, up nine per cent.
“I am pleased to report a strong result in an unprecedented time of uncertainty during the most severe pandemic of our lifetime,” CSL chief executive officer and managing director Paul Perreault said.
“Our influenza business Seqirus delivered an exceptionally strong performance, more than doubling earnings before interest and tax to $693 million.”
CSL has been working with the University of Queensland on a COVID-19 vaccine and had produced 300,000 doses for the planned Phase 3 clinical trial before the vaccine was pulled.
In parallel to this, CSL had also entered into an agreement with the Australian government to manufacture 30 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
“Following the cessation of the UQ candidate, CSL turned its attention to accelerating the manufacture of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 candidate and supplying an additional 20 million doses ahead of the original schedule,” it said.
“Manufacturing is well under way and the first doses are planned for release in late March 2021.”
On the outlook, Mr Perreault said demand for CSL’s core plasma and infuenza products remain robust.
“Seqirus is performing well as strong demand for influenza vaccines together with our differentiated products portfolio will see it deliver another strong profitable year,” Mr Perreault said.
“Consistent with the seasonal nature of the business we anticipate, however, a loss in the second half of the year.”
He said COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on CSL with its plasma collections adversely affected during the pandemic.
Net profit after tax for the full-year is expected to range from $2.17 billion and $2.27 billion, representing growth of eight per cent.