Fujifilm grants production space to Gates-funded COVID-19 effort

Dozens of drug candidates are being floated as possible therapies for COVID-19, but manufacturing a successful candidate on a mass scale won't be easy. In a deal with a Bill Gates-funded drug accelerator, Fujifilm Diosynth is hoping to ease some of that production burden.

Fujifilm will devote some of its manufacturing capacity at its Denmark biologics plant for a treatment yet to be identified by the Gates-funded COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, the drugmaker said Thursday.

As part of the deal, Fujifilm will allocate room at its Hillerød, Denmark, facility and "work with a selected pharmaceutical partner in supporting the swift manufacture and dedicated supply for patients with COVID-19 in lower-income countries," Fujifilm said in a release.

The Denmark facility is equipped with six large-scale bioreactors for the manufacture of cell-culture-derived biologics for clinical and commercial use, the company said. The agreement also stipulates Fujifilm will support assembly, labeling and packaging requirements for the to-be-decided pharma partner.

The deal sets aside an unspecified production volume for 2021 with options for the following years, Fujifilm said.

Fujifilm's manufacturing support for the Gates-funded accelerator comes as the billionaire philanthropist looks to boost production of possible therapies and vaccines to counteract the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier this month, Gates touted his foundation's role in helping fund factories for seven promising vaccines, even before seeing conclusive data. That's despite the fact that only two of the programs—at most—might make it through to final development and deployment, he said on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah."

Why? The world can't wait for traditional vaccine deployment timelines, so the foundation aims to help scale up manufacturing during testing instead of after, Gates said on the show.

“Our early money can accelerate things,” Gates said.

The foundation picked the seven “most promising” vaccine constructs and will help fund factories for all seven, he added, “even though we’ll end up picking at most two” to actually deploy.

Meanwhile, Fujifilm has already stepped on the gas pedal to ramp up production of its own hoped-for COVID-19 therapy.

Earlier this month, Fujifilm said it is expanding manufacturing capacity at its Toyama facility to speed production of flu antiviral Avigan, which has been targeted as a possible therapy for COVID-19.

The company has also "established strategic partnerships with domestic and overseas companies" to source raw materials for Avigan and added capacity at its Wako Pure Chemical Co. facility to produce the drug's active pharmaceutical ingredients, Fujifilm said at the time.  

Apr 30, 2020


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