Two local pharmaceutical firms are in “advanced stage and very serious interest” of their proposed COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plans while at least four foreign companies have also been identified as potential vaccine technology providers, but a Philippine produced COVID-19 may have to wait at the earliest by 2023 yet.

This was the assessment of the Board of Investments (BOI), which is leading government agencies — Department of Health, Food and Drugs Administration, Department of Science and Technology and the National Development Co.(NDC) — in facilitating discussions with interested Filipino companies and potential technology providers. 

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

At President Duterte’s “Kumusta Na Po Mahal Kong Kababayan” broadcast Wednesday nigh last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez identified the 6 firms as Greentech, Glovax Biotech, IG Biotech, New Marketlink, Lloyds Laboratories, and Unilab.

Of these firms, DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo, who is also BOI managing head, said Glovax Biotech is the most advanced while another local firm, which did not identify, has the capability to mount such project and is described as “very very serious” in pursuing its plan for a COVID-19 vaccine plant in the country. 

Rodolfo said that he personally held discussions with the Filipino firm Glovax and its partner Eubiologics, the South Korean vaccine technology provider. Glovax, an existing vaccine-focused distributor in the country, has also proposed to build a vaccine manufacturing with investment of P7 billion, but would like to get a supply agreement from the government to ensure its project’s viability. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rodolfo Glovax had already proposed to the government for vaccine manufacturing in the country.

BOI Executive Director for Industry Development Services (IDS) Ma. Corazon Halili-Dichosa, who is privy to these discussions, said the other local with “very very serious” interest and has a proven capacity and capability in the pharmaceutical business has a potential Indian foreign technology partner. Both Rodolfo and Halili-Dichosa did not divulge the local party, but sources said the company could be Unilab, the Philippines’ largest and southeast Asia’s leading pharmaceutical giant. 

In terms of vaccine technology providers, Rodolfo said there are at least 5 potential partners– Russia’s Gamaleya, Korea’s Eubiologics, a Chinese (Taiwanese) firm, an Indian firm that Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. is negotiating, and an American university research center.

Rodolfo said that Gamaleya has the intention to co-produce Sputnik V vaccine in the country, while Eubiologics is partnering with Glovax. Halili-Dichosa also said that the US university research center , which treats vaccine manufacturing as a public good, is also opened to licensing its technology at “very very cheap” rate versus other existing vaccine technology providers.

She said there are still other vaccine technology providers they are in talks with, including a German firm. All these discussions though are confidential, she said.

According to Halili-Dichosa, talks about local vaccine manufacturing started last year and parties continue to continue discussions. The discussion was first highlighted by Russia’s Gamaleya for its Sputnik V vaccine.

But BOI said that vaccine manufacturing in the country is not expected to materialize soon, saying that if deals are sealed now the earliest would be 2022 or 2023 to see the actual plant. 

According to Halili-Dichosa, a fill and finish facility until operation would take three years to accomplish, but she also cautioned that even if the government would like to help in order to fast track this project they also recognized that this will depend on how fast the private sector partners can seal their contracts, which are quite sensitive because they have R&D and trade secrets that the government must honor. There are also government processes and FDA regulations to follow.

“We told them we are just on standby in case they need some push from the government,” said Halili-Dichoas.

In the meantime, Halili-Dichosa said that interested firms are also looking at the viability of their operations because of the considerable amount of investments needed. Others, like Glovax said it will cost P7 billion to start production from active ingredient to actual manufacturing, but the BOI said that if there is an existing technology provider the initial cost would be around P300 million for a fill and finish modular facility for one type of vaccine.

Thus, others are looking at starting with the production of flu vaccines first because it has an existing market as it is given annually. 

In fact, Rodoldo said NDC, the government’s investment arm, is always present in all of their meetings because it can provide risk equity just to start off an endeavor in strategic projects like vaccine manufacturing. But, he said, that NDC’s equity stake is limited to minority 10 percent only. 


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2021/03/29/hopes-high-for-ph-vaccine-manufacturing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hopes-high-for-ph-vaccine-manufacturing)