Pharma Industry Comes Together to Support Manufacture of COVID-19 Vaccines

COVID vaccine

The pharmaceutical industry continues to demonstrate its willingness to team up in the ongoing combat against the global COVID-19 pandemic. This week, two pharma giants have agreed to leverage their manufacturing capabilities to produce the mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Both Sanofi and Novartis entered into agreements to support manufacturing and supply of the COVID-19 vaccine that has been authorized for use in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. On Wednesday, Sanofi announced its intentions to bolster the supply of the vaccine. Sanofi said it will provide Germany’s BioNTech with access to its established infrastructure and expertise to produce over 125 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Europe. Initial supplies will originate from Sanofi’s production facilities in Frankfurt beginning this summer.

Paul Hudson, Sanofi’s chief executive officer, said the decision to support manufacturing of the vaccine is to make sure more doses are available to the public in order to beat back this pandemic. He said the decision to support Pfizer and BioNTech is a step toward the industry’s all-hands-on-deck mentality to curb the COVID-19 threat.

“Although vaccination campaigns have started around the world, the ability to get shots into arms is being limited by lower than expected supplies and delayed approval timelines owing to production shortages. We have made the decision to support BioNTech and Pfizer in manufacturing their COVID-19 vaccine in order to help address global needs, given that we have the technology and facilities to do so. As always, our top priority is to focus our efforts and capabilities on fighting this global pandemic. First and foremost, we will do this by continuing to develop our own COVID-19 vaccines candidates, in parallel with this industrial cooperation,” Hudson said.

Novartis is also bolstering manufacturing efforts. This morning, Bloomberg reported the Swiss pharma giant agreed to begin production of the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine in the second quarter. The vaccine will be produced at a facility in Switzerland. Novartis will take bulk messenger RNA material and fill it into vials, Bloomberg said. The company did not disclose the quantity of vials it planned to fill.

Novartis may not be limited to just manufacturing the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. CEO Vas Narasimhan told Bloomberg the company was in conversation with a number of companies to produce vaccines and therapeutics against COVID-19.

“We expect this to be the first of a number of such agreements,” Steffen Lang, head of Novartis technical operations, said in a statement to Bloomberg.

While Sanofi will use its manufacturing for Pfizer and BioNTech, the company said it will also continue to collaborate with GlaxoSmithKline to develop two COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The vaccines developed by the two companies used the same recombinant protein-based manufacturing technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines, combined with GSK’s established pandemic adjuvant platform. A Phase I/II study showed the vaccine generated an immune response against the virus in patients ages 18 to 49 years old. There was a lower immune response in older patients likely due to an insufficient concentration of the antigen, Sanofi said.

A Phase II study will be initiated in February that will evaluate the vaccine candidate with an improved antigen formulation in order to achieve high-level immune response across all age groups. If data are positive, a global Phase III study could begin in the second quarter.

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