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Startup behind Oxford COVID vaccine reportedly eyes IPO

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A startup that played a crucial role in developing Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine is hatching plans to go public — but the centuries-old school may be standing in the way, a new report says.

The startup, Vaccitech, was founded in 2016 by two Oxford scientists who created the immunization technology powering the COVID-19 shot that the university licensed to AstraZeneca, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The firm has been courting investors for an initial public offering valuing it at about $700 million, a price tag that could potentially grow to $1 billion by the end of the year, the paper reported Sunday.

But Oxford — which owns about 10 percent of Vaccitech — has reportedly put up several hurdles in the company’s road to an IPO.

For one, Vaccitech has not been able to get its hands on Oxford’s contract with AstraZeneca, which agreed to exclusively produce and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, the Journal says.

The contract contains legal and financial details that are key to fairly valuing Vaccitech, which was shut out of Oxford’s negotiations with AstraZeneca, according to the paper.

Vaccitech has also reportedly battled the school over how to describe the company’s role in the shot’s development. The company is seeking approval from the university to tout Vaccitech’s work with Oxford scientists in the vaccine’s creation, along with its efforts to support early clinical trials and provide safety data to regulators, the Journal says.

Oxford University
Oxford University — which owns about 10 percent of Vaccitech — has reportedly put up several hurdles in the company’s road to an IPO.
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There was even a brief squabble over where Vaccitech should list its stock — the company has pushed for the US’ Nasdaq exchange, but Oxford-linked investors wanted a London listing, according to the report.

Vaccitech and AstraZeneca both declined to comment to the Journal, while Oxford didn’t respond to the paper’s requests for comment.

Vaccitech is one of more than 200 startups that Oxford has supported since the late 1980s, according to the WSJ. Going public would reportedly allow it to cash in on its success with a COVID-19 vaccine like other biotech firms, including Novavax and Curevac.

Vaccitech owns rights to the so-called viral vector technology that makes the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine work, the Journal reported. The shot uses a deactivated cold virus from a chimpanzee to provoke an immune response to COVID-19 in the body.

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