BioNTech Gets Help From Merck KGaA in Move to Speed Covid Shots

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Merck KGaA agreed to speed up the supply of lipids to BioNTech SE, easing a bottleneck preventing faster production of Covid-19 vaccines.

The German pharma company is already looking to expand production of custom lipids and expects to increase deliveries to BioNTech toward the end of 2021, it said in a statement Friday. Merck is one of the world’s main suppliers of the custom lipid nanoparticles that are crucial to producing shots using messenger-RNA technology.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cited lipids earlier this week as a main constraint on scaling up mRNA vaccine production. CureVac NV Chief Executive Officer Franz-Werner Haas echoed those sentiments in a Bloomberg TV interview Wednesday, saying his company is facing challenges making more of its experimental Covid shot because the mRNA industry was so small a year ago and there are now calls for billions of doses.

Bottlenecks in the supply chain include components needed to make the genetic material for the shots, along with the lipid nanoparticles required to envelop that material, Haas said. There are also shortages for the machinery used in making mRNA, Haas said.

Merck, based in Darmstadt, Germany, is not affiliated with U.S.-based Merck & Co. Over the past year, it’s intensified a collaboration with BioNTech and also supported about 50 other Covid vaccine projects in a role similar to that of a supplier in the auto sector, it said.

Merck KGaA shares were little changed in Frankfurt.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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