AstraZeneca agrees German manufacturing deal to fill vaccine gap
AstraZeneca has enlisted German drug manufacturer IDT Biologika to help boost production of its Covid-19 vaccine and tackle supply shortages in Europe.
Relations between the EU and AstraZeneca deteriorated after the pharma group announced last month that it would fall far short on its promise to deliver the bloc at least 100m doses of the vaccine, developed with Oxford university, in the first quarter.
AstraZeneca has since revised its first-quarter delivery forecast up from 31m to 40m doses, and announced that it would expand manufacturing capacity in Europe.
Jürgen Betzing, chief executive of IDT Biologika, said “the agreement underscores our expertise in the production of . . . vaccines and our ability to provide a one-stop solution”.
Both companies will invest to expand manufacturing capacity at IDT Biologika’s production site in Dessau, building up to five 2,000-litre bioreactors able to produce tens of millions of doses a month of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The new capacity is forecast to be operational by the end of 2022, but the partnership also said it was looking at other ways to increase output from the second quarter of this year.
Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, acknowledged this week that the EU had made mistakes in its vaccine strategy, including being too late to approve some vaccines and too optimistic about manufacturing capacity.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said the agreement with IDT Biologika would “help Europe build an independent vaccine manufacturing capability that will allow it to meet the challenges of the current pandemic and create strategic supply capacity for the future”.
The German Ministry of Health and the European Commissions helped facilitate the deal.
Jens Spahn, German health minister, said the agreement “helps us in this pandemic, but it also strengthens Germany’s role as a centre of the pharma industry for the 2020s”.
The EU granted emergency approval for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on January 29 and on February 5 the company began shipping doses.