Another Indian pharma firm has joined the fight against Covid-19. Mumbai-based Wockhardt has been shortlisted by the U.K.’s National Health service (NHS) to supply it with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine through its fill-and-finish plant. The agreement was reached after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the company’s facility at Wrexham in North Wales. A fill-and-finish facility is where vaccines are packaged in the final manufacturing stage before deployment.

Johnson inspected the fill-and-finish plant earlier this week and reserved one production line at Wockhardt UK for the exclusive use of the U.K. government for 18 months in order to guarantee the supply of vaccines required to fight against Covid-19. That amounts to up to 350 million doses a year. “The plant will manufacture the AstraZeneca-Oxford Vaccine first and subsequently any other vaccine contracted by the U.K. government,” said Habil Khorakiwala, chairman, Wockhardt Ltd.

The chairman said that Wockhardt had the capacity to manufacture a “billion doses a year for both API and fill-and-finish” at its plants in Aurangabad, which would meet the certification standards of the U.K.’s regulator, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Wockhardt has state-of-the-art biotech plants in Aurangabad, with six manufacturing facilities for biopharmaceutical bulk as well as recombinant formulations.

In addition to their own branded products, Wockhardt also provides contract manufacturing services for companies around the world. Khorakiwala said that the company was in talks with global firms for contract manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccines.

With 125 scientists working on biotechnology, Wockhardt has the capability to use different technology platforms using bacterial cell culture-based vaccines (such as those by Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech) as well as mammalian-based vaccines, like the AstraZeneca-Oxford. All it needs would be the transfer of technology of the vaccine to be manufactured.

“Globally 15 billion doses of vaccine are required and Wockhardt has the capability to manufacture a billion doses in its plants including India and the U.K. The current world capacity is about 6 billion doses,” Khorakiwala said.

In India, Serum Institute of India is on track to introduce the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, called Covishield, in the early part of 2021, while Bharat Biotech is conducting phase 3 trials for indigenous vaccine candidate Covaxin. Also in the race is Dr Reddy’s, which is conducting phase 3 trials of Russia's Sputnik V, along with the department of science and technology. Phase 2 trials of another indigenous candidate, Zydus Cadila’s DNA-based vaccine, are also on; the company is expected to move to phase 3 trials shortly. And recently, Hyderabad-based vaccine maker Biological E. initiated phase 1 and 2 trials of the vaccine candidate developed by the U.S.-based Baylor College of Medicine.

Wockhardt is one of the largest suppliers of medicines to the NHS and with this agreement, it will supply the U.K. with Covid-19 vaccine doses through using its MHRA-approved manufacturing site C.P. Pharmaceuticals (a Wockhardt UK subsidiary) in Wrexham. Currently, the facility manufactures a number of sterile injectable products covering a wide range of therapy areas including diabetes, anticoagulation, and pain management.

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