A billion doses! This is the ambitious objective of the Janssen laboratory for the manufacture of its own vaccine against Sars-CoV-2, after obtaining on Saturday February 27 the authorization for its marketing by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. . The Belgian subsidiary of the American giant Johnson & Johnson is nevertheless awaiting a similar decision from the European Medicines Agency, in the coming days, to definitively formalize the distribution of its candidate on our continent.
“These two decisions, in the United States and in Europe, represent decisive stages in the race that we are leading against the pandemic,” explains the French headquarters of Janssen, in Issy-les-Moulineaux (Hauts-de-Seine ). But we did not wait for them to start production of our vaccine in July. This strategy of anticipation to forced march, very risky financially, but which proves largely profitable when it is crowned with success, has already been applied by the first three competing vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
“As of last summer, therefore, we began preparations to launch production at our site in Leiden, the Netherlands, our platform for the whole of Europe,” the management continues. “It is on this same site that the laboratory’s vaccines against Ebola, HIV, RSV and Zika were developed. »Then Janssen decided to go the extra mile by mobilizing other sites around the world, in the United States, Spain, Italy, India and South Africa.
To do this, it relied on unprecedented partnerships with other laboratories, either for the production of the active substance, or for the finished product, or for the final stage of filling and packaging. “Given the huge needs, and therefore the quantities to be produced, it was impossible for us to meet the demand with our sites alone,” explains the spokesperson. So we have already established eight international agreements. And others will undoubtedly be finalized in the coming weeks. “
50 million doses on the Sanofi site
A new actor has already come to complete the list, just last week: the French champion Sanofi. While continuing to conduct its clinical trials on two of the most successful technologies, recombinant protein on one side, and messenger RNA on the other, the laboratory will make its production lines available on one of the largest vaccine production sites around the world, in Marcy-L’Etoile, in the suburbs of Lyon (Rhône). He had already established a first partnership of this type at the end of January with Pfizer in Germany from July, for a target of 125 million doses for 2021.
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“For this new collaboration, with Janssen, we will take care of the formulation (Editor’s note: the mixture) and filling, explains a spokesperson for Sanofi, based in New York. Then we will send the vials back to Janssen factories for the final packaging step. “Start of production, on the Marcy site alone: in September, at a rate of 12 million doses per month, and a target of 50 million doses by the end of the year.