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AstraZeneca shares gain as coronavirus vaccine trials resume

A test tube labelled with the Vaccine is seen in front of AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken

(Reuters) – Shares of AstraZeneca <AZN.L> inched higher in early trade on Monday as the optimism spurred by the British drugmaker’s resumption of clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate outweighed official weekend moves to cut U.S. drug prices.

The stock was the biggest boost to London’s bluechip, FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index in early trading, but quickly pared gains as U.S. President Donald Trump’s order to lower prices nationally hurt pharmaceutical stocks across the board.

AstraZeneca shares were trading at 8,431 pence by 0833 GMT. UK pharma stocks <.FTNMX4570>, however, underperformed the FTSE 100, with GSK <GSK.L> down 0.2% and Hikma <HIK.> 1% on Trump’s order.

The resumption of the trials for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, one of the most advanced in development and regarded by governments and financial markets as one of the best bets to tackle the health crisis in the months ahead, buoyed stock markets around the world.

Late-stage trials of the vaccine were suspended last week after an illness in a study participant, casting doubts on an early rollout and sending the London-listed company’s shares lower.

Global trials of the vaccine had also been paused following the UK suspension. Brazil has approved restarting the trials and the Serum Institute of India is awaiting permission from the Drugs Controller General of India.

Cambridge-based AstraZeneca’s shares had risen about 11% this year up to their Friday close of 8,429 pence, giving the pharmaceutical giant a market capitalisation of 111 billion pounds ($142 billion).

(Graphic: AstraZeneca vs FTSE 100, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/buzz/azgponoekvd/Pasted%20image%201600064759673.png)

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)

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