A new manufacturing deal with Mumbai-headquartered global pharma and biotech giant Wockhardt's Welsh subsidiary reflects yet another booster for the UK's Covid-19 vaccine access drive.
If there is one area that stands out for UK-India collaboration during the coronavirus pandemic, it is quite clearly the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector. From keeping flows of crucial doses of paracetamol open from India to Britain to tie-ups with the Serum Institute of India for the scale-up of a promising under-trial vaccine at the University of Oxford, the win-win aspect of this segment has never been more pronounced. And, this close alignment was on display yet again this week when the UK government announced a new manufacturing pact with India′s Wockhardt to guarantee the supply of millions more doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, whenever one comes to fruition.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed an 18-month agreement with the Mumbai-headquartered multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company to carry out the crucial “fill and finish” stage of the manufacturing process, which involves dispensing the manufactured vaccine substance into vials ready for it to be distributed. Described as an essential part of the vaccines supply chain, the deal means Wockhardt will provide these services for the UK government and producers of vaccines being developed around the world in large quantities.
UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Ensuring the UK has the capability to research, develop and manufacture a safe and effective vaccine is critical in our fight against coronavirus.
“Today we have secured additional capacity to manufacture millions of doses of multiple Covid-19 candidates, guaranteeing the supply of vaccines we need to protect people across the UK rapidly and in large numbers.”
According to experts, fill and finish is a critical step in the process to get any vaccine in a form that can be given to patients.
“The agreement with Wockhardt will boost our capability to ensure that from the moment a successful vaccine is identified we will be able to produce the quantities of vaccine required, as quickly as possible, for the people who need it,” said Kate Bingham, Chair of the UK's Vaccines Taskforce.
The fill and finish line is expected to start in September and will take place at CP Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Wockhardt, based in Wrexham, North Wales, which has the capacity to finish millions of coronavirus vaccine doses.
In the UK, Wockhardt is one of the largest suppliers into the National Health Service (NHS) for over 20 years and has had a presence in Wrexham for over two decades, where it employs over 400 people at a 612,000 square feet high-tech manufacturing facility.
Dr Habil Khorakiwala, the Founder Chairman of Wockhardt, said: “The pandemic of Covid-19 is a challenge for all and needs a concerted effort to overcome. We are proud to be collaborating with the UK government to make vaccines available and the arrangement brings in a huge sense of purpose and pride, it upholds our ongoing commitment to fight against such a pandemic of global human importance.
“As a global organisation, we are focused and committed to assist in mitigating the worldwide impact of Covid-19.”
UK Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart added: “This agreement demonstrates the importance of Welsh manufacturers in the UK's fight against coronavirus, highlighting once again the strengths of working together across the UK to combat the pandemic.
“Securing this manufacturing capacity means that safe and effective vaccines, produced in Wales, will potentially be distributed rapidly to people across the UK.”