South Africa’s Aspen signs vaccine deal with Johnson & Johnson

South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine following the completion of clinical trials.

The vaccine will be manufactured at Aspen’s R3 billion new sterile facility in Port Elizabeth, which has the capacity to manufacture up to 300 million doses per year for domestic and international markets.

Aspen will complete the formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for supply to J&J under a preliminary agreement between Aspen’s subsidiary Pharmacare and J&J subsidiaries Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceutica.

Stephen Saad, Aspen group chief executive, said that the J&J vaccine project will receive priority focus for the Durban-based company, which already manufactures COVID-19 treatments.

“We have invested globally in our sterile capability and are determined to play a role in the manufacture of vaccines to add to our proud track record of making contributions to humanity in times of global pandemics,” he said.

“This has included, inter alia, being a leading global supplier for antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, multi-drug-resistant-TB products and Covid-19-related treatments such as anaesthetics and dexamethasone.”

J&J started testing the vaccine in adults in a 60,000-volunteer Phase III study in September but had to pause it in early October after a serious medical event in one participant. After resuming the study in late October, the company said it plans to start testing its experimental vaccine in youths aged 12 to 18 as soon as possible.