FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
WASHINGTON – Rivalry and competition suspended. The multinationals of the drug would be ready to form a kind of Holy Alliance against Covid-19.
The pivots, at least for the moment, are the three American companies, already in possession of the vaccine. A New Yorker Pfizer which just yesterday announced that it had expanded the European production network to 11 partners.
Among these there is certainly Sanofi, a French company with 100,000 employees spread across 100 countries. Its executive vice president, Thomas Triomphe, confirmed that the Frankfurt plant will be converted to package the whey developed by Pfizer and the German company. BioNTech. The new line will be ready in June, with a cambitious manufacturing apacity: 125 million doses, although not clear in how long.
Switzerland also stands out in Pfizer’s list of partners Novartis, headquartered in Basel. Another leader Modern, based in Massachusetts, a smaller but technologically very advanced company. In Europe it has already signed an agreement with the Swiss from Lonza, with 15,000 employees and a presence in 35 countries.
But the French of Delpharm, 17 factories, including those in Milan and Novara; the Swedes of ReciPharm, with a robust European branch in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Portugal. Finally Johnson & Johnson, headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Its easy-to-store, single-dose product got the first green light yesterday from the committee of scientists that assists the Food and Drug Administration, the federal regulatory authority. Final authorization expected for Friday 26 February. Sanofi is still ready to act as a bank, dedicating the Marcy l’Etoile factory, in the suburbs of Lyon.
The scheme of cooperation is also valid in perspective. There is the case of Novavax, for example, a Maryland company developing a very promising vaccine. But it has no production capacity. It will appeal to competitors of Baxter (Illinois) and the Irish of Endo International.
Throughout 2020, the first year of the pandemic, businesses and governments have been moving in no particular order. Already last spring, however, the Donald Trump administration had put a billion and a half dollars on the plate, funding four vaccine projects and five therapy drugs. Probably this push allowed American companies to immediately acquire a strategic advantage, at least over Western competitors.
The European Commission had placed high hopes on Sanofi’s progress. In Washington it is believed that this is also why it has closed very prudent contracts with Pfizer and, above all, Moderna. Now a turning point is looming that could have come even earlier. It will not be an easy operation. First of all, we will have to overcome the problem of proprietary rights attached to patents. The ongoing confrontation between EU governments and within the European Commission. Although the common sense position that the Minister of Health seems to prevail Roberto Speranza summarizes as follows: As prestigious personalities of the scientific community, the political and religious world, associations and volunteers have argued, faced with a health emergency of this size does not hold up the idea of exclusive ownership of patents.
More complicated then the issue of costs and therefore of times. Businesses will have to learn a handle mRna technology, used by Pfizer and Moderna. This means hiring staff, quickly training specialized technicians, upgrading machinery, buying new pumping systems and bioreactors. It will take at least four months, plus massive investments that someone will have to cover, otherwise they will drain into final prices.