France ramps up COVID-19 vaccine production

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags France COVID-19 vaccine Sanofi Pfizer BioNTech Recipharm Delpharm Fareva

Three COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing sites are set to start production in France in the coming weeks: while the French government is seeking to boost further production with a €300m ($363m) initiative announced on Monday.

CDMO Recipharm will start production for Moderna at its Monts facility next month; while Delpharm will manufacture the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre from April. In May, Fareva is set to follow suit for CureVac’s vaccine.

French facilities come online

In the European Union, three COVID-19 vaccines are currently authorized and being distributed across the 27 Member States. These are the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech; Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The EU has also lined up doses from Johnson & Johnson, CureVac, Sanofi/GSK, Novavax and Valneva: with CureVac, J&J and Novavax being the most advanced of these.

Manufacturing vaccines in Europe is important to ensure supply for the Union, noted Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the minister delegate for Industry, in a French Government press conference last week. She noted, however, that this involves scaling up production of new technologies - such as mRNA vaccines. 

“We are now in a phase of growing production capability, which will determine an increase in deliveries. This scaling up of production – and notably the necessary transfer of technology – is a critical and delicate stage," ​she said.

Increasing production is also a matter of collaboration, she noted. 

"We continue to mobilise our laboratories and industries to implement new production capacity. Engaging Sanofi to produce 100 million doses of BioNTech's vaccine in 2021, as announced in January​, is an example of the cooperation we have organised and wish to continue."

Uniting public and private sectors will also help produce more doses, faster, she added.  

Pannier-Runacher unveilled the timeline for production facilities to come online in France: starting with Recipharm’s facility for Moderna’s vaccine next month. Here, the Swedish CDMO will support formulation and fill-finish for Moderna’s mRNA vaccine from its French facility in Monts in the Loire Valley. 

French CDMO Delpharm will follow in April with the manufacture the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at its plant in Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre, with tens of millions of doses anticipated to come from the site. Delpharm is also recruiting around 50 more people at the site to support production.

Fareva – France’s largest CMO – has an agreement with CureVac for the fill & finish manufacturing of CVnCoV: which will be carried out at its sites in Pau and Val-de-Reuil sites. While the vaccine is still in Phase 3 trials and yet to be authorized, the companies estimate production at these sites will begin in May. 

Over the last 10 years, Fareva has invested over €80m in the Val-de-Reuil site, which specialises in the manufacture of sterile APIs and sterile finished dosage forms, and created 250 jobs. The site in Pau is a more recent acquisition by Fareva, from Pierre Fabre Group, and is supported by more than 250 employees. This site is dedicated to the sterile fill & finish manufacturing of biologics and high potent APIs, including freeze-dried products.

France launches new investment initiative: 'Our response to the pandemic will lead to a resilient, competitive and innovative industry'

The French Government champions these three initial sites as the fruit of its first round of investment, launched in June 2020, which supported a total of 17 projects to a tune of €160m. These covered various existing pharmaceutical products (such as medicines used in intensive care for COVID-19 patients) and new innovations (such as COVID-19 vaccines and therapies).

Given the drastic evolution of the COVID-19 vaccine and treatment landscape since then – including the authorization of three COVID-19 vaccines for use in the EU – France on Monday launched a second round of investment and is calling for expressions of interest.

“The President of the Republic has already set out a goal to produce more, faster. Following the success of our first appeal in June 2020, which notably gained three vaccine production sites, alongside research projects into treatments and vaccines, we are reinforcing our efforts to support the growth of production capacity in France in order to fight the pandemic,”​ said Pannier-Runacher.

The investment round will identify projects which will develop research and rapidly expand the production of medicines and vaccines, as well as projects which contribute to the national strategy for testing and vaccination.

The investment also seeks to build a stronger industry well-positioned to compete on a European scale: with one of the priorities being to develop a strong vaccine and biotech sector.

Ultimately, "the response to the COVID-19 crisis will drive us to construct a resilient, competitive and innovative industry,"​ pledges the government.

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