Aspen CEO sees own-brand Covid vaccine as step to new products

See video. Aspen will have the right to manufacture the newly named Aspenovax vaccine from drug substances supplied by J&J, the company announced on Wednesday.

Video courtesy of Reuters’ David Doyle.

Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd.’s licensing deal with Johnson & Johnson to produce its own-branded Covid-19 vaccine is a “stepping stone” to develop other profitable product lines, the South African drug company’s chief executive officer said.

Aspen will have the right to manufacture the newly named Aspenovax vaccine from drug substances supplied by J&J, the company announced on Wednesday. There is a “good faith undertaking” between the companies to discuss the expansion of the agreement to include any new versions of the drug substance, such as those developed for new variants or a different formulation for administration as a booster, it said.

Read: Aspen gets a J&J vaccine boost

The agreement will help Aspen develop expertise that can then be used in making oncology and insulin medications as well as other inoculations, CEO Stephen Saad said in an interview on Wednesday. Aspen has delivered 180 million J&J vaccines since mid-2021, when it started packaging and filling vials of the US company’s shots at a South African plant.

“Now there’s the real opportunity for us to look at other areas as well,” Saad said. “Our vaccine is already profitable and putting out a new product from start to finish or going into new lines will be more profitable than getting a saving on existing products.”

Aspen switched focus from making generic medicines to producing so-called steriles including anesthetics in recent years to tap a higher-value market. It may also expand into making drug substances for vaccines, such as shots for children or potential candidates for HIV inoculations.

The Durban, South Africa-based company earlier reported a 32% rise in first-half profit to R3.36 billion ($224 million).

While a strong recovery from manufacturing is anticipated in the second half, the risk of rapidly rising shipping, energy and glass and aluminium costs because of the war in Ukraine is a “real concern,” Saad said.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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