[Vaccine-manufacturing] WSJ: BioNTech to Make Covid-19 Vaccines in Singapore

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon May 10 04:19:32 PDT 2021



BioNTech to Make Covid-19 Vaccines in Singapore

Pfizer partner says its new Asia headquarters is expected to start
production in 2023

By Bojan Pancevski
May 10, 2021 1:30 am ET

BERLIN— Pfizer Inc. vaccine partner BioNTech SE said it would set up a new
Asia headquarters in Singapore to produce its Covid-19 vaccine and other
medicines, as global demand for the lifesaving shots continues to grow.

The new factory, which is supported by Singapore’s Economic Development
Board, a government agency, is expected to become operational in 2023,
BioNTech said. The company didn’t release any information regarding the
cost of the project and the scale of government support.

The fact that it is likely to take two years to set up the production line
underlines the complexity of manufacturing the so-called mRNA vaccines
produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. The companies have pointed to this
complexity as an argument against waiving the patent on their shot for it
to be manufactured in developing countries, a move the U.S. is pushing for.

BioNTech, a small German drugmaker focused on cancer treatments, came up
with the first coronavirus vaccine to be approved in the U.S. and Europe.
BioNTech and Pfizer market the shot together, except in Germany, Turkey and
China, where BioNTech operates alone.

The company said in a written statement that it selected Singapore for its
regional headquarters and would build a highly automated mRNA manufacturing
site for vaccines and therapeutics for infectious diseases and cancer.

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“With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall
network capacity and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA
vaccines and therapies to people around the world,” said BioNTech Chief
Executive Ugur Sahin.

“Singapore provides an excellent business climate, growing biotechnology
industry and rich talent base,” Dr. Sahin added.

Construction is expected to begin this year. When the factory comes online
in two years, the site is expected to have an annual capacity of several
hundred million doses, as well as rapid-response production capability for
potential pandemic threats in the region.

Beh Swan Gin, chairman of the EDB, said in a written statement that
BioNTech’s mRNA manufacturing facility would contribute significantly to
the region’s ability to address future pandemic threats.

In September last year, BioNTech purchased a state-of-the-art factory in
Germany from Novartis Pharma GmbH to expand its Covid-19 vaccine
production. Yet the factory in Marburg, located some 70 miles from
BioNTech’s headquarters in the city of Mainz, took more than six months to
begin producing its first doses, because of the complicated technology
transfer, the need for upgrades to the site and the stringent certification

Similarly, it took nearly eight months for Pfizer, one of the world’s
largest pharmaceutical companies, to absorb BioNTech’s proprietary
technology and start producing vaccines at scale.

BioNTech said earlier that it would soon set up a production site in China
with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. to supply the Chinese
market. China has ordered as many as 100 million doses from BioNTech and
Fosun Pharma.

Write to Bojan Pancevski at bojan.pancevski at wsj.com

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

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