AstraZeneca has unveiled plans to build a new large Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility with Germany’s IDT Biologika at the firm’s Dessau site, in an attempt to defuse a row with the EU over vaccine supply.
IDT Biologika, one of AstraZeneca’s manufacturing partners, provides glass vials and injects the liquid vaccine – which is made at other European sites – into vials, before capping and boxing them.
The two companies said they were exploring options to speed up this process in the April to June quarter to support Europe’s vaccine rollout, after a slow start to vaccination campaigns in EU countries amid supply shortages.
The two companies are also building a large additional facility to ramp up vaccine production at IDT Biologica’s production site in Dessau in east Germany.
They plan to build up to five 2,000-litre bioreactors capable of making tens of millions of doses per month of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. However, the new facility won’t be up and running until the end of next year.
The factory could also manufacture other vaccines that have a similar manufacturing process. This means that IDT Biologika will have one of the largest vaccine manufacturing sites in Europe.
Jürgen Betzing, chief executive of IDT Biologika, said:
“We are proud that AstraZeneca has chosen us as a strategic partner for the manufacturing of their vaccines. The agreement underscores our expertise in the production of demanding vector-based vaccines and our ability to provide a one-stop solution, from creating drug substance, through to “fill and finish” and secondary packaging.”
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, added:
“This agreement will greatly 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.”
IDT Biologika produces viral vaccines for pharmaceutical companies, and has suffered a recent setback in developing its own vaccine against Covid-19, Reuters reported.
Earlier today, European commission president Ursula von der Leyen conceded to MEPs that the EU is “not where it wants to be” with its coronavirus immunisation programme, amid mounting criticism of the bloc’s slow deployment of vaccines.
Last month, the EU threatened to block exports of coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the bloc such as Britain, after AstraZeneca warned that it could only deliver half as many doses as planned in the first quarter of 2021, due to production problems.
Here’s some early reaction: