Swiss drugmaker Novartis to help make Pfizer-Biontech COVID-19 vaccine

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is pictured at the French company's headquarters in Rueil-Malmaison

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis has signed an initial agreement to provide manufacturing capacity for Pfizer and Biontech's COVID-19 vaccine, a move aimed at helping boost production as supplies fall shy of demand.

Subject to reaching a final agreement, Novartis plans to commence production in the second quarter of 2021, the Basel-based company said on Friday, adding it would use manufacturing facilities at its site in Stein, Switzerland, near the Rhine River on the German border.

Three vaccines from Western companies Pfizer-Biontech, AstraZeneca and Moderna have been approved by regulators, but limited production and delayed deliveries have hampered efforts to quickly vaccinate people most at risk for COVID-19.

Novartis's announcement that it was joining the push to remedy the shortfall follows a move by Sanofi this week to work with Biontech to supply 125 million doses of its mRNA vaccine to the European Union.

"Novartis has been mobilizing on multiple fronts to support the global pandemic response," said Steffen Lang, head of Novartis Technical Operations.

Novartis, which did not give specifics on how much drug substance it would produce for Pfizer-Biontech if the deal goes through, added it is in "advanced discussions" with additional companies to take on production of mRNA, therapeutic protein and other raw materials for vaccines and therapeutics.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)