- AstraZeneca has enlisted Catalent Cell & Gene Therapy to produce the drug substance for an experimental coronavirus vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford.
- Catalent said it will have multiple production trains running in parallel to produce the substance at its plant in Harmans, Maryland, near the Baltimore-Washington International airport. The deal builds on an earlier contract, under which Catalent will provide fill/finish services for the AstraZeneca vaccine at its site in Anagni, Italy.
- The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced in clinical development, and AstraZeneca has aggressively pursued manufacturing and supply deals across the globe ahead of its potential launch. The new agreement strengthens those efforts.
AstraZeneca is a leader on two fronts in the fight against COVID-19, advancing quickly in vaccine research and stringing together a series of manufacturing deals to allow production on a massive scale.
The cost of preparing plants to produce new vaccines could range from $50 million to $700 million. Vaccines are complicated to manufacture, and sourcing the necessary materials at scale also presents shortage concerns.
But to effectively combat the pandemic, vaccines will be needed for most of the global population of almost 8 billion. That's prompting large drugmakers to seek out contract manufacturers and expand capacity well before any inoculation has proven effective.
After striking a series of manufacturing deals around the world, AstraZeneca now has the capacity to produce about 3 billion doses of its AZD1222 vaccine a year. It has promised 300 million doses each to the U.S. and European Union, agreed to supply another 100 million doses to the U.K., and earmarked 1 billion for low- and middle-income nations under a license agreement with the Serum Institute of India.
Agility remains a key to manufacturing vaccines and their components, and cooperation can facilitate speed and scale.
In expanding its deal with Catalent, AstraZeneca is taking advantage of the contract manufacturer’s expertise in viral vector manufacturing, which is critical in making a vaccine that relies on modified viruses to help deliver genetic material into cells. Catalent is also working with other companies racing to develop a vaccine; it signed a manufacturing deal with Johnson & Johnson in April and, in June, agreed to supply fill/finish services to Moderna.
"We're never going to have infinite capacity or resources for any supply chain, including the healthcare supply chain. We have to be mindful of how to think of creating a bit more nimbleness," Nicolette Louissaint, executive director of Healthcare Ready, told Supply Chain Dive in June.
Deborah Abrams Kaplan contributed to this report.