[Ip-health] FT: Sanofi urges Europe to add vaccine manufacturing capacity - French drugmaker says coronavirus has put national sovereignty of healthcare ‘sharply into focus’

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sun Mar 15 22:10:51 PDT 2020


<SNIP>

Mr Loew said it was far too early to discuss pricing, but pushed back
against the idea that vaccines developed in part with public money should
be free or cheap: “Nobody is going to embark as a large company if there is
not a certain return that you can get for your investment and the risks you
have been taking.”



https://www.ft.com/content/9f0f3546-652f-11ea-b3f3-fe4680ea68b5

Sanofi urges Europe to add vaccine manufacturing capacity
French drugmaker says coronavirus has put national sovereignty of
healthcare ‘sharply into focus’


Leila Abboud and Sarah Neville in Paris 8 MINUTES AGO


Sanofi has warned that Europe lacks the vaccine manufacturing capacity to
cope with pandemics like the coronavirus, and called for a government
agency dedicated to response planning as in the US.

Paul Hudson, chief executive of the French drugmaker, told the Financial
Times that the outbreak has brought the issue of national sovereignty of
healthcare systems “sharply into focus”.

Governments have imposed export controls on medical supplies including
masks and ventilators since the outbreak began. On Sunday, German officials
were seeking to stop a biotech company working on a vaccine in the country
from moving research to the US amid fears Washington may seek a monopoly on
any breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

In recent discussions with European health officials, Mr Hudson and David
Loew, who heads Sanofi’s vaccines unit, urged policymakers to create an
equivalent of the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and
Development Authority. It works with industry to procure and develop
treatment against pandemic influenza and emerging diseases.

“You have to decide where you want cost, quality, and continuity of supply
to be over the long term,” said Mr Hudson. “It doesn't have to be wildly
different than today but you have to start thinking about sovereignty.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak Sanofi, the world’s fourth-biggest vaccine
maker by revenue, had begun adding manufacturing capacity in the US
following a government request.

“They want to make sure that they have inventory for their citizens,” said
Mr Hudson, referring to Barda. “We have to be a little bit more like that
in Europe.”

The pandemic has caused some pharmaceutical and medical supplies executives
to consider whether the offshoring of production in pursuit of cost savings
has gone too far.

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Some 60-80 per cent of the world’s active pharmaceutical ingredients are
produced in India and China, according to industry groups, and some were
barred from export during the outbreak. Sanofi is seeking to remedy that
issue by spinning out its European pharmaceutical ingredients unit by 2022
in a bid to expand.

“In a crisis situation as we can see now, you can’t even get masks,” said
Mr Loew. “I would encourage the European Commission to start thinking about
where will we sort, midterm, the capacity that we want to have. Today we
don't have enough installed capacity on European soil.”

Sanofi has three vaccine factories in France and three in the US. But none
of its European facilities can make vaccines using novel recombinant DNA
technology, which is now being tested for coronavirus vaccines.

Barda has jumped into action on the coronavirus, teaming up with drugmakers
including Sanofi on vaccine research and on diagnostic tests.

Public-private partnerships are necessary for new viruses with pandemic
potential because companies often have to start work without knowing what
the market will be. Barda often pledges to buy the vaccines even if the
pandemic fades, as Zika and Ebola did.

With roughly a dozen companies racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine,
experts warn it will take at least 18 months for one to be ready given the
time involved in clinical trials.

Mr Loew said Sanofi was aiming to have an experimental version of a vaccine
available in six months, begin trials in a year, and hoped for approval in
two to three years. A team of 60 scientists is on the task.

But Mr Loew cautioned that Sanofi needed more time to determine whether to
throw major resources behind the vaccine.

“The coronavirus could become a seasonal thing, like flu. It could die down
in a couple of months. We simply don’t know and the epidemiology is also
not completely clear,” he said.

Mr Loew said it was far too early to discuss pricing, but pushed back
against the idea that vaccines developed in part with public money should
be free or cheap: “Nobody is going to embark as a large company if there is
not a certain return that you can get for your investment and the risks you
have been taking.”

Jimmy Whitworth, a professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical
Medicine, backed the concept of a European Barda, adding: “We are
increasingly vulnerable to a narrowing number of manufacturers . . . the
more people are able to manufacture new therapies, new vaccines and so on,
the better prepared we will be.”


-- 
Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org


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