Frankfurt — European companies playing an important supporting role in COVID-19 vaccine production are working to bring production and supply chains closer to their customers to prevent trade restrictions that disrupted supply during the pandemic.
Germany’s Merck KGaA, whose life sciences sector is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of bioreactor gear and consumables, has geographically expanded its production network to Reuters to reduce shipments that need to cross customs borders. He said he is promoting what to do.
US regulations, especially those that prioritize companies that fulfill contracts with the US government, are a challenge for Merck as they seek to meet the surge in demand for supplies such as sterile fermented bags and filters.
However, the United States is not the only country engaged in a country called vaccine nationalism. India banned vaccine exports in mid-April and focused on promoting domestic immunization.
Following a production shortage in AstraZeneca earlier this year, the European Union has imposed an export surveillance scheme, accusing the UK of withholding the amount of COVID-19 vaccine that it said should be shared with the EU.
“All the positive decisions we made have integrated the geographic aspects into it,” CEO Beren Garriho told Reuters. “With the trade constraints we saw, we have strengthened global diversification whenever we have the opportunity,” she added.
At Rentschler Biopharma SE, a German consignment manufacturer of a leading pharmaceutical company that supports the production of CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine candidates, the pandemic has triggered a review of its procurement routes.
“The coronavirus crisis has become an important impetus for making our supply chains more accessible. We have decided to procure most of our equipment in Europe because we are no longer dependent on the United States,” said the bioreactor. Take the sterile bag for use as an example, says Frank Matthias, Chief Executive Officer. He did not appoint a supplier.
Matthias said the supply chain collapsed earlier this year when the United States ordered domestic vaccine producers a certain amount.
The US Defense Production Act, with a rated ordering system that prioritizes US crisis response, also hampered Merck’s ability to serve vaccine manufacturers elsewhere in the world.
In response, Merck announced in March plans to invest € 25 million in France to produce disposable plastic materials for bioreactors, an essential input to the production of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Merck’s first such facility in Europe, the new site, is likely to go live at the end of 2021 and will be added to similar production lines in the United States and China.
It was then advertised in December to invest $ 47 million in US facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to boost global production to meet unprecedented demand.
“The pandemic was a wake-up call,” said Gariho of Merck. “We need a global footprint to be able to address potential trade constraints.”
The family-owned Merck also manufactures prescription drugs and chemicals for semiconductor manufacturing, but the life sciences division is made up of companies formerly known as Millipore and Sigma-Aldrich, making them the main revenue drivers. It has become.
Competitors include Thermo Fisher, Danaher and Sartorius.
As another move to avoid the effects of long transport routes and international controversy, German family-owned vaccine maker IDT Biologika jointly launched AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine with Sweden earlier this year. It has announced plans to invest more than 100 million euros to manufacture it. Pharmaceutical company.
The production line, which is currently scheduled to go live in 2023, is designed to adjust Astra Shot or other vaccines of the same viral vector class to a dose of at least 360 million doses per year.
IDT manufactures the active ingredients, mixes, bottles and packs the final product, bringing together the now widely scattered manufacturing steps in one place.
IDT said the project is on track, but declined to comment further. The company said the German Federal Ministry of Health supported the project, but the investment was not subsidized.
Merck CEO Gariho warned that rebuilding the production network of the pharmaceutical sector, which has relied on cross-border exchanges and international divisions of labor for decades, can only be done in stages.
“You can’t move a factory from one day to another. It takes time,” she said.