The University of Oxford team behind the COVID-19 vaccine now known as AZD1222 prioritized the ability to quickly make huge numbers of doses when they were searching for a partner. That focus led them to hand responsibility for global distribution and manufacturing of the adenovirus vaccine to AstraZeneca.
Around one month after striking the deal, AstraZeneca revealed it planned to make 2 billion doses. AstraZeneca set that target after forming agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and the Serum Institute of India, but the effort to hit the goal involves a far broader network of organizations.
Talking to investors on a second quarter results conference call, Pam Cheng, executive vice president of global operations and IT at AstraZeneca, said more than 20 contract manufacturing organizations and two significant sublicensees are involved.
AstraZeneca is trying to organize its partners so they can all simultaneously scale up production to hit its goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“We stood up these what we call the independent sort of parallel supply chains to ensure that we can have broad and equitable assets around the world without competing with each other as well,” said Cheng.
The strategy could counter fears that bottlenecks will emerge as AstraZeneca and other COVID-19 vaccine developers rapidly scale up production to meet global demand. The availability of production space is just one issue. Vaccine manufacturers will also need ready access to vials and other materials essential to the production, distribution, and administration of their products.
If AZD1222 succeeds in late-phase clinical trials, AstraZeneca hopes to start using the parallel supply chains to ship vaccines by the end of the year. However, AstraZeneca is yet to factor the vaccine into its sales forecasts for 2020.
AstraZeneca’s push to secure capacity is being supported by national governments in some countries. This week, Wockhardt said the UK government has reserved capacity at its CP Pharmaceuticals subsidiary.
Through the deal, the UK government has gained exclusive use of a fill-and-finish production line at CP Pharmaceuticals’ 612,000-square-feet facility in Wales. The government expects the reserved line to support the production of millions of doses of multiple COVID-19 vaccines.
AZD1222 is one of the vaccines that could undergo fill and finish at the CP Pharmaceuticals facility. The UK government also has agreements to buy COVID-19 vaccines in development at BioNTech and Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, and Valneva.