Novartis announced Friday an agreement to utilise its manufacturing capacity and capabilities in Switzerland to support production of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty. The mRNA vaccine, which is also known as BNT162b2, gained conditional marketing authorisation from the European Commission in December last year.
The deal comes shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech indicated that non-US order and shipping schedules for Comirnaty would be hit by temporary "fluctuations" while a production facility in Belgium is being upgraded to boost long-term supply. To help address the issues, Pfizer and BioNTech recently inked a pact with Sanofi to fill and pack millions of doses of the vaccine starting in July.
Under the latest contract manufacturing agreement, Novartis plans to take bulk mRNA active ingredient from BioNTech and fill this into vials under aseptic conditions for shipment back to the company. The Swiss drugmaker noted that subject to finalisation of the deal, it plans to commence production in the second quarter with an initial shipment of finished product in the third quarter.
Novartis said that the deal is the "first of multiple agreements" that it is exploring to use its manufacturing capacity and capabilities to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The company indicated that it is in "advanced discussions" with a number of additional parties to take on manufacturing activities such as mRNA production, therapeutic protein production as well as raw material production for COVID vaccines and therapeutics.
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