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CEPI reserves manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines at SK bioscience

Richard Hatchett

An agreement between CEPI and SK bioscience has secured capacity to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines at SK bioscience’s facilities in South Korea.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations’ (CEPI’s), headquarted in Oslo, Norway, mission is to stimulate and accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks. CEPI arose after 2013-2016 Ebola epidemics showed the complexities of rapid vaccine deployment.

This agreement supports the goal of CEPI and its COVAX partners to produce 2 billion doses of safe and effective vaccine by the end of 2021.

COVAX

COVAX – part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator – aims to provide an ‘end-to-end’ solution to the challenge of vaccine development, manufacture and supply in the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing together the skills, expertise and resources of the public, private and philanthropic sectors on a global scale, states CEPI. CEPI, alongside Gavi and the World Health Organisation, launched COVAX with the aim of ending the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

“COVAX works by pooling financial resources to purchase vaccines at scale, sharing the risks associated with developing vaccines and investing up-front in manufacturing so that vaccines are ready to be distributed as soon as they are licensed.”

Through COVAX, participating countries will have access to CEPI’s portfolio of COVID-19 vaccine candidates – the largest in the world – managed by CEPI’s R&D experts. This portfolio approach increases our chances of developing multiple successful vaccines, which is crucial if we are to meet demand and protect the most vulnerable, states CEPI.

Countries of all income levels can participate in the COVAX Facility. All participating countries – of every income level – will get doses for at least 20% of their population. That covers those most at risk – health workers, elderly people, and adults living with health conditions. In the age of COVID-19, nobody is safe until everybody is safe, describes CEPI on its webbsite.

Reserve manufacturing capacity

Under the terms of the agreement, SK bioscience will reserve manufacturing capacity in 2020 and 2021 exclusively for the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines designated by CEPI. CEPI has an option to extend the reservation of manufacturing capacity beyond 2021, should it be needed.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine showed robust immune response in all participants

One or more CEPI-supported vaccine candidates are expected to be manufactured at SK bioscience’s facilities, and appropriate vaccines will be selected based on the technical characteristics of the vaccines and their suitability for production at SK bioscience. It is anticipated that vaccines manufactured under this agreement would be procured and distributed through the COVAX Facility, a financing mechanism which will enable equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all participating countries.

Novavax is first to enter the agreement

Novavax is the first vaccine developer to enter into a manufacturing agreement with SK bioscience which will utilize the reserved capacity, announcing today that the companies have entered into a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) agreement for the manufacturing and supply of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373.

One or more CEPI-supported vaccine candidates are expected to be manufactured at SK bioscience’s facilities, and appropriate vaccines will be selected based on the technical characteristics of the vaccines and their suitability for production at SK bioscience. It is anticipated that vaccines manufactured under this agreement would be procured and distributed through the COVAX Facility, a financing mechanism which will enable equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all participating countries.

Read more: Early positive update from Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine study

“The business-as-usual pathway of waiting for vaccines to reach licensure before investing in manufacturing will not work in the age of COVID-19, when thousands are dying every day and economies have ground to a halt. If we wait until vaccines are licensed before we begin manufacturing we could risk delays of up to one year before vaccines are available; we must act now so that vaccines are ready to be distributed at scale as soon as they are proven to be safe and effective,” says Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI.

CEPI’s COVID-19 vaccine portfolio

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CEPI is supporting the research and development of a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates based on a range of vaccine approaches. Of the nine vaccine candidates currently in the CEPI portfolio, seven have entered clinical trials out of 26 globally. CEPI has raised US$1.4bn in support of COVID-19 vaccine research and development, but urgently needs $700m in additional funds to continue to support the development of safe and effective vaccines which will be made globally available through COVAX.

Read more about CEPI’s work during the pandemic in our upcoming issue of the magazine, out September 10th. Sign up för a subscription here!

Photo of Richard Hatchett, CEO, CEPI