(Reuters) – AstraZeneca has enlisted Germany’s IDT Biologika as a contract manufacturer of its COVID-19 vaccine, as Germany and the European Union seek to boost a delayed immunisation campaign.
AstraZeneca said on Wednesday it was looking into options with IDT to speed up output of finished COVID-19 vaccine in the second quarter, and that both companies planned to invest in adding capacity at IDT Biologika’s production site in Dessau, eastern Germany, to go on stream by the end of 2022.
That investment would include up to five 2,000-litre bioreactors capable of making tens of millions of doses per month of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
The investment could also allow for the production of other vaccines using a similar manufacturing process, they added.
IDT Biologika produces viral vaccines for pharmaceutical companies and has suffered a recent setback in developing its own vaccine against COVID-19.
IDT has previously said it was doing work for AstraZeneca on the British firm’s vaccine, which is co-developed with Oxford University.
Under the deal, which was earlier reported by Reuters, IDT would make the active ingredient, and mix, bottle and pack the final product.
The German group said it would invest a “triple digit million euro” amount and AstraZeneca’s share of that was subject to ongoing talks.
IDT’s own experimental COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed with the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF), did not prompt the hoped-for immune reaction in early-stage testing on humans, resulting in a suspension of the trial last month.
Germany and other EU governments are under fire over a slow start to vaccinations, as deliveries from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, as well as from AstraZeneca, fell short of projections.
“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,” said AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot.
The German regional state of Saxony-Anhalt, home to IDT, said this month the company was in talk to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya institute.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger. Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Mark Potter)