Covid-19 roundup: Catalent lends vaccine production capacity to AstraZeneca/Oxford for hundreds of millions doses
Catalent’s growth play in Italy a year ago is paying off amid a dramatic explosion in demand for space to produce Covid-19 vaccines. In a new deal with AstraZeneca, the Anagni site is charged with filling the vials and packaging Oxford’s adenovirus vector-based candidate, now named AZD1222.
The supply could reach hundreds of millions of doses with round-the-clock manufacturing schedules, beginning as early as this August should regulators stamp their OK and through to March 2022.
When Catalent acquired the site — complete with some 700 staffers — from Bristol Myers Squibb last June, CEO John Chiminski emphasized its reputation as a launchpad for new medicines in Europe.
“Catalent has significant experience in the tech transfer and rapid scale-up of vaccine programs to meet demand,” Alessandro Maselli, president and COO, added in a statement today.
The contract development and manufacturing organization is also a partner to J&J and Arcturus, helping the former manufacture an adenovirus vector-based vaccine while boosting the latter’s low-profile mRNA approach.
Germany grabs minority stake in CureVac with €300M investment, tightening hold on mRNA vaccine
Just ahead of first-in-human testing of CureVac’s vaccine candidate against Covid-19, German officials said they are injecting €300 million of federal money into the company and its mRNA platform technology. In return they are earning a seat at the table as a 23% stakeholder.
The German biotech was briefly the subject of an international tussle when word got out that the Trump administration was trying to lure it to the US (presumably so that Americans would have better access to its Covid-19 vaccine in development). Backlash from its native country swiftly followed, and in May Germany adopted new rules to protect healthcare companies from hostile takeovers by non-EU companies.
Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, a state-owned development bank, is providing the $337 million to complete the transaction.
“The German Federal government has decided to invest in this promising company because it expects that this will accelerate the development programs and provide the means for CureVac to harness the full potential of its technology,” Peter Altmaier, minister for economic affairs and energy, said in a statement. “This is also of high importance for industrial policy as we in Germany and Europe need these essential research results and technologies.”
Germany has also teamed up with France, Italy and the Netherlands to form the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance and secure a commitment of 400 million doses from AstraZeneca and Oxford.
For CureVac, the financial commitment offers further cash reach and stability so that they can develop both the Covid-19 vaccine and other mRNA drug candidates more quickly. Production can also be ramped up — an important concern should clinical results come back positive.
The company has laid low after a turbulent March, during which then-CEO Dan Manichella represented CureVac at the White House meeting with biopharma executives. Founder Ingmar Hoerr took over the reins soon after that, only to take a medical leave of absence a few days later. Unlike BioNTech, a biotech neighbor in Tübingen that’s also developing a mRNA vaccine in partnership with Pfizer, CureVac was not named a finalist in Operation Warp Speed.
With vaccines now considered the bedrock of any hope to fully reopen economies safely, alongside testing and tracing capabilities, securing access to prominent candidates now appears vital to the legitimacy of governments around the world.
AstraZeneca strikes supply deal with Europe, committing another 400 million out of 2B doses of vaccines
Another 400 million doses of Oxford University’s vaccine has been reserved.
Following similar commitments with the US and UK, AstraZeneca has reached a deal with a new European initiative spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands dubbed Inclusive Vaccines Alliance. The first deliveries will be due by the end of 2020 — should the Phase II/III results be positive.
The IVA will pay €750 million ($843.1 million) for the first 300 million doses, Reuters reported citing a spokesperson for Italy’s health ministry, which is paying about €150 million for 75 million doses. The deal includes an option to buy a further 100 million doses.
“Equitable access” continues to be a main theme, as the IVA promises to make vaccines available to all participating countries across Europe.
As AstraZeneca continues to build supply chains around the world to manufacture and distribute the adenovirus-based vaccine candidate out of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, it said it’s secured capacity for 2 billion doses.
The US, which chipped in $1.2 billion for the development and production through BARDA, signed up for 300 million vials; another 100 million is earmarked for the UK.
For low- and middle-income countries, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance notched the rights to 300 million doses through a $750 million pact. At the same time, AstraZeneca granted a license to the Serum Institute of India to supply 1 billion doses primarily for poorer populations.
“This agreement will ensure that hundreds of millions of Europeans have access to Oxford University’s vaccine following approval,” CEO Pascal Soriot said in a statement. “With our European supply chain due to begin production soon, we hope to make the vaccine available widely and rapidly.”
AstraZeneca has taken on the responsibility of ramping up supplies, negotiating with countries about distribution as well as recruiting volunteers and providing support to the clinical program since coming on board as a partner in April. While it’s unclear whether or how much ownership the company has in the vaccine — whose name was changed from ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 to AZD1222 in the process — it’s promised to supply the immunization at no profit during the pandemic.
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