Astrazeneca has said it expects to unveil the results of late-stage trials for its Covid vaccine by the end of the year after posting surging third quarter profits.
The drugmaker is hopeful of announcing data on the eagerly awaited jab it is developing with Oxford University within weeks - potentially allowing mass injections to start in early 2021.
Astra has enlisted tens of thousands of volunteers around the world for testing, giving them either the vaccine or a placebo. When enough subjects have caught coronavirus, Astra will "unblind" the results to see if its jab offers any protection.
The company's pre-tax profits more than doubled to $853m (£652m) for the three months to Sep 30, while revenues climbed 3pc to $6.58bn.
Product sales came in at $6.52bn, ahead of a previous estimate of $6.5bn. The FTSE 100's second most valuable company was also boosted by two of its main drugs – cancer treatment Lynparza and diabetes drug Forxiga – winning approval for wider use in Europe.
Astra has been at the forefront of efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine. It has also started final trials for a possible antibody treatment against the virus.
Chief executive Pascal Soriot said: "We made encouraging headway in the quarter, despite the ongoing disruption from the pandemic.
"In the fight against Covid-19, we advanced our vaccine collaboration with the University of Oxford and are launching Phase III trials for our long-acting antibody combination for the prophylaxis and treatment against Covid-19 for people who need an immediate defence or whose weaker immune systems mean they are less likely to benefit from a vaccine."
Drugmakers have been racing to publish data from their vaccine trials as hopes rise that a jab will become available in the first half of 2021, allowing life to return close to normal.
Astra's research and development costs jumped 11pc to $1.5bn during the quarter as more orf its drug trials moved into the final stage of testing on humans.
The company maintained its financial guidance for the year and said total revenue is still expected to increase by a high single-digit to a low double-digit percentage.
Shares were flat at £85.15, valuing the company at £111bn. The stock was at £76.60 at the start of the year.