South African generic drug producer Aspen signs Covid-19 vaccine deal

Aspen signs Johnson&Johnson Covid-19 vaccine deal
Multiple Covid-19 vaccine trials are underway.

Africa’s largest generic drug producer, Aspen Pharmacare, signed an agreement with Johnson&Johnson to produce Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Aspen said it signed a preliminary deal with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and  Janssen Pharmaceutica for the technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of the Covid-19 vaccine, known as Ad26.COV2-S.

Based in Belgium, Janssen Pharmaceuticals is owned by American company Johnson&Johnson.

While the vaccine is still undergoing clinical trials, Aspen said it was preparing for the transfer of the technology when the drug becomes available.

“Aspen Pharmacare has agreed to provide the necessary capacity required for the manufacture of Johnson& Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate at its existing sterile facility in Port Elizabeth,” the company reported in a statement.

Building a partnership

Johnson & Johnson selected Aspen as a partner, and it will be prioritised for vaccine production, said Stephen Saad, Aspen’s Group Chief Executive. Headquartered in Durban, Aspen Pharmacare is a leading global supplier of antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, multi-drug-resistant-TB products and Covid-19-related treatments.

“We have invested globally in our sterile capability and are determined to play a role in the manufacture of vaccines to add to our proud track record of making contributions to humanity in times of global pandemics,” says Saad.

“We are particularly pleased to be given the opportunity of providing assistance for patients in need across the world from our South African base,” adds Saad.

Pharma growth in the Eastern Cape

The South African-based generic drug producer says it has invested more than R3 billion in the Port Elizabeth facility. It contains high technology equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture sterile drugs and vaccines, packaged into vials, ampoules and pre-filled syringes.

Eventually the production will ramp up to more than 300 million doses a year.

The facility already has accreditation from a range of international regulatory authorities and provides lifesaving medicines to both the domestic and international markets.

Aspen recently announced it was focusing its pharma growth area in the Eastern Cape, where unemployment levels are some of the highest in South Africa. Previously Aspen announced it would develop the Port Elizabeth facility as a response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attempts at increasing investments into South Africa.—Health-e News


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