BioNTech Buys German Factory to Boost Covid Vaccine Capacity

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BioNTech SE is buying a German manufacturing site with capacity to churn out 750 million doses a year of its Covid-19 vaccine, more than doubling the amount the company can produce as it prepares to help supply the world with its still-unproven shot.

The site purchase from from Swiss pharma giant Novartis AG shows the German biotech’s confidence in the experimental vaccine it’s developing together with U.S. partner Pfizer Inc. and China’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. The site will enable BioNTech to ramp up production more quickly than if it had relied on expanding existing sites, as it had originally planned, Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin said in an interview late on Wednesday.

“Particularly in the first half of 2021, we can get more doses than initially planned,” Sahin said.

BioNTech’s vaccine candidate and its rivals are making their way through clinical studies amid intense public scrutiny -- and in some countries, political promises. In the U.S., Paul Mango, one of the leaders of the administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program, said on Wednesday that every American could be vaccinated by the end of March.

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BioNTech and Pfizer are seeking to ship 100 million doses of vaccine this year -- enough for 50 million people to get a two-dose course of immunization -- and with that supply already portioned out between multiple governments, it wouldn’t be sufficient to cover the U.S., Sahin said. The partners expect to get initial data next month from a 44,000-person study showing whether the vaccine works.

Supplying China

Ramping up to full production capability will take some time. The new site will be able to make 250 million doses of its vaccine in the first half of next year and then as many as 750 million doses a year once it’s fully operational. The shots will supply the Chinese market as well as other countries around the world. Pfizer will also produce the vaccine in the U.S. and Europe.

Together, Pfizer and BioNTech had initially said they could manufacture more than 1.3 billion doses of vaccine by the end of next year. Today’s manufacturing deal will increase their joint capacity by at least 300 million doses a year, Sahin said.

BioNTech said it expects to close the deal for the site in Marburg, north of Frankfurt, in the fourth quarter. It didn’t disclose financial terms.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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