Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer expands into France; Omicron-specific version of Moderna's booster coming soon
As the hype surrounding Pfizer’s antiviral Covid-19 pill swirls, the pharma announced that it will build a production facility in France to make the drug as a part of a five-year investment.
Pfizer will team up with Novasep to install equipment and initiate tech transfer and on-site development at Novasep’s Mourenx facility. The move is a part of a $594 million investment in France.
“We are of course proud to contribute to the manufacturing of this medicine which has shown in clinical trials to have a positive impact on hospitalization among at-risk Covid-19 patients,” Novasep’s CEO Michel Spagnol said in a statement. “This contract also validates our investment strategy for several years and our focus on small molecules.”
The move comes after France canceled an order for Merck’s antiviral pill following disappointing test results, and country leaders went all in on the Pfizer version of the treatment.
Paxlovid was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization by 89% in trial with the same safety profile as placebo, Pfizer reported. At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, CEO Albert Bourla said that “any decent manufacturer” can make the antiviral, despite its complicated chemistry that requires time to synthesize the API.
But as experts have outlined, a shortage in APIs combined with the high volume of pills taken in a single course could complicate the manufacturing process.
Another 40 employees are set to be hired at the Mourenx site as the site expands, and it is expected to help with the supply chain as early as Q3 of this year. More expansion to other Novasep facilities is expected in 2023, the company said.
Future versions of Moderna’s booster coming soon
Data from an Omicron-specific vaccine candidate from Moderna will be good to go in March, the company’s CEO said at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda conference.
The shot is being finished right now and should be in the clinic in a few weeks, Stéphane Bancel said. Moderna’s also working on a jab that would combine the booster dose with a flu shot, but that would not be available until the fall of 2023, in a best-case scenario.
That shot, Bancel says, could serve as a positive way to convince people to get a booster shot when they are not fond of being jabbed in the arm several times a year.