The CEO said there are enough employees to speed up production. They even help their competitor Roche – although that doesn’t pay off.
There are very few vaccines around the world because manufacturers cannot keep up with their production. Not all options have been exhausted. “We are happy if we can increase our capabilities to ensure that more vaccines are available worldwide,” Vas Narasimhan, president of Novartis, said on Tuesday. The group is currently expanding production of Curevac vaccine at its plant in Austria. Narasimhan says there are no problems finding the right personnel.
“We get paid for the production, but this is not a big profit motivation for us,” said Narasimhan, responding to reporters’ inquiries about vaccine production when presenting the group’s mixed quarterly numbers. In order to produce enough vaccines as quickly as possible, he remains open to making additional capabilities available. In addition to Curevac and Biontech, the group could also step in to other vaccine manufacturers with additional production facilities, a Novartis spokesperson specified. With its plant in Tirol, Novartis is the world leader in microbial fermentation, which is also essential for the production of mRNA vaccines.
Novartis is currently expanding its facilities in Kundl for Curevac and plans to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses there this year. In 2022 it should be 200 million boxes. The pre-prepared active ingredient is then delivered to Curevac for further processing and packaging. “We are constantly improving in operations, and we are also able to mass-produce there. If desired, we must also be able to produce additional vaccine doses there.”
Global vaccination coverage assistance
It remains unclear if producing her vaccine in Condol would be an option for Moderna. “Moderna does not generally comment on potential or ongoing discussions or negotiations,” says a spokesperson for the US biotechnology company.
Novartis’ co-production will also not handle current delivery delays from Moderna to Switzerland or Great Britain. It takes several months to start the manufacturing process and for the vaccine to be approved by the authorities. But additional production at the already somewhat existing Novartis plant could accelerate the rapid supply of vaccines by the end of the year, even in poor countries. Our Moderna is currently negotiating handover agreements with the Covax Vaccination Alliance.
Competitors also help each other
Capacity provision during a pandemic is not an isolated case. In the United States, for example, Sanofi also helps Moderna with the aseptic packaging of vaccine doses. Novartis makes part of its filling capacity at Stein Pfizer / Biontech in Aargau. Novartis even joins competitor Roche in Basel in producing its drug Actemra, which can be used to treat Covid patients. There was no fear of contact between the pharmaceutical giants during the crisis: Roche reveals its tightly-guarded knowledge of Novartis’s manufacturing process.
Novartis will likely release another Covid drug soon. To this end, the group entered into a partnership with the Swiss company Molecular Partners last year, and a global study of the second and third phases will begin these weeks. Novartis Narasimhan’s president was confident that an emergency permit application could be filed in the United States this year. Other countries will likely track approval requests. Unlike vaccines, treatments for Covid are still scarce today. The drug can then be produced in Novartis, Condel. In large quantities and at low cost. This should also give poor countries access to treatment, Narasimhan asserts.