PE lab at the heart of R3bn COVID vaccine quest

25 November 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202021146

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A Port Elizabeth laboratory is at the centre of Aspen Pharmacare’s efforts to create a COVID-19 vaccine in collaboration with US-based pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

News of the partnership added nearly R5 billion to the value of Aspen’s parent company Aspen Pharmacare Holdings earlier this week.

The vaccine candidate is undergoing clinical trials at Aspen Pharmacare’s sterile facility in Port Elizabeth.

PE lab at the heart of R3bn COVID vaccine quest

Aspen Chief Executive Stephen Saad said he group had invested more than R3 billion in the facility together with the high tech equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture sterile drugs and vaccines, packaged into vials, ampoules and pre-filled syringes.

The production area where the vaccine candidates will be manufactured has the capacity to produce more than 300 million doses per annum.

The facility has accreditation from a range of international regulatory authorities and provides lifesaving medicines to both the domestic and international markets. It was part of the first flagship investments announced at the President’s inaugural South African Investment conference.

“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,” Saad said.

“This has included, inter alia, being a leading global supplier for antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/Aids, multi-drug-resistant-TB products and Covid-19-related treatments, such as anaesthetics and dexamethasone. We have been selected as a vaccine partner by Johnson & Johnson, and this project will receive priority focus.”

Saad said Aspen would perform formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for supply to Johnson & Johnson.

The agreement is subject to the successful completion of the relevant technology transfer activities and finalisation of certain commercial manufacturing terms.

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