BioNTech plans to set up a regional centre and a new factory in Singapore for its vaccines, it said on Monday, boosting its presence in Asia as a debate over patents rages and pressure grows on drugmakers to raise output of COVID-19 shots.
Governments are looking to build up local vaccine production to secure access to supplies after manufacturing setbacks have slowed the rollout of COVID-19 doses in some countries.
The Singapore facility will “address potential pandemic threats” in southeast Asia and will increase BioNTech’s global supply capacity of product candidates – also beyond vaccines – based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, BionTech said.
MRNA vaccines, like BionTech and Pfizer ‘s COVID-19 shot, prompt the human body to make a protein that is part of the virus, triggering an immune response.
The German biotech company said the Singapore factory will have an estimated annual capacity of several hundred million doses of its mRNA vaccines depending on the specific type, once it is operational in 2023.
“Having multiple nodes in our production network is an important strategic step in building out our global footprint and capabilities,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
He told a press conference that the investment amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, declining to be more specific.
BioNTech Chief Strategy Officer Ryan Richardson said there were ongoing discussions with countries around the world about more production sites but added the Singapore decision was exceptional.
“We made a unique long-term commitment to Singapore,” following more than a year of talks with the country, he added.
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