The fear of the shortage of vials for vaccines Covid invites an avalanche of transactions

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(Bloomberg) –

Fears that a shortage of glass bottles can hinder efforts to quickly deploy a vaccine Covid-19 incite an avalanche of transactions, to pick up the containers on demand.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global organization that funds the development of vaccines, is the latest to announce such a pact, paying $ 19.7 million euros, 22.2 million dollars, Stevanato Group, an Italian manufacturer of containers for pharmaceuticals, for $ 100 million glass bottles that can contain up to 2 billion doses of the vaccine.

The quick search for a vaccine has led to concerns that, even if the scientists hit their target, logistical obstacles and shortages of basic materials may interfere with the distribution. CEPI, based in Oslo, has paid 829 million in the nine inoculations experimental coronavirus different. Now, it also seeks to invest in the production of supplies simple but essential, such as solutions, rubber stoppers, syringes and glass vials.

“We look at the supply chain from the beginning to the end,” said Melanie Saville, director of research and development of vaccines in the CEPI, in an interview. Saville said that the group has conducted a survey on the global manufacturing capacity, which ” has really pointed out that they are all vulnerable zones “.

The 100 millions of bottles manufactured by the Italian company are made from borosilicate glass type 1 – a container of pharmaceutical grade which is regarded as the gold standard for vaccines and other therapies for decades. According to the three world’s largest manufacturers of this product, 50 billion containers in borosilicate glass are produced each year.

Earlier this month, the U.s. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the u.s. Department of Defense have entered into agreements to increase national production of bottles with Corning Inc., who has received $ 204 million, and SiO2 Medical Products, which has earned $ 143 million. The major manufacturers of drugs have also entered into agreements to secure their own bottles.

Fears of a shortage

Many public health experts and executives in the pharmaceutical expressed concern about a possible tightening of the supply of glass bottles.

Bill Gates has sounded the alarm in various interviews. Rick Bright, the former director of BARDA, said in a complaint from a whistleblower that his warnings about the shortages of glass bottles had fallen flat in the us department of Health and social Services. And the president and chief executive officer of Sanofi, Paul Hudson, who runs two candidates for vaccination with the support of the u.s. government, said in an interview that ” to find a billion of glass bottles with stoppers approved is not easy to do.

The best biopharmaceutical companies are committed to the manufacture of injections “at risk”, which means to strengthen the capacity of manufacturing and securing raw materials before their candidates are allowed to use. Awi Federgruen, chair of the division of decision, risk and operations from Columbia Business School, said that the quick approach will strain the market of glass bottles so that businesses store the product for firing is not yet proven.

There are more than 140 vaccines under development for use against the coronavirus. Among these, only 16 are in human trials, according to the world health Organization. While giants such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc. have entered into their own agreements for bottles, small businesses could stay with empty hands, said Federgruen.

“I am afraid that there is a battle huge to find sufficient capacity, when we reach the point where there are effective vaccines, and we will enter into a geopolitical battle about it,” he said. “We do not have the luxury to sit and wait. “

Projecting confidence

The group Stevanato product every year, 10 billion units of glass containers sterile and bulk, components, diagnostic and medical and other drug distribution systems.

The chief executive officer, Franco Stevanato, said that the rapid manufacturing of 100 million additional units would be a challenge for the next 18 to 24 months, but not surchargerait not too the company. The production process requires the purchase of sand, melt it in large tanks-type kiln, reforming the glass tube, and then shape it into vials or syringes before sterilization and packaging extra.

Since glass bottles are made-to-measure for the level of acidity of the solutions they contain and the temperature at which they are stored, among other specifications, Stevanato Group may not start the production before the vaccine candidates are closer to the finish line. Once the CEPI will have selected one or more plans, the process of production of the bottles takes place quickly, he said, speaking of Venice.

“We are not talking about months,” said Stevanato, “we’re talking about weeks”.

Stevanato and other glass manufacturers do not expect that the shortage of bottles is hindering global efforts to curb the pandemic. The two other largest manufacturers of glass – Schott AG and Gerresheimer AG – have issued a joint statement on June 16 saying that they will ensure that there is an “adequate supply” in containers.

The president of Schott, Frank Heinricht, stated that it was working with “all major” involved in the development of the vaccine Covid-19. These drug manufacturers have approached Schott to ask for 800 or 1 billion containers each, what Heinricht described as an impossible task if you ” multiply these figures by five or six companies “. But if two or three companies are successful, it is feasible, he said.

Schott invests more than one billion dollars to increase the production of borosilicate glass and purchase of machinery so that it can produce 500 to $ 1 billion bottles specifically for the efforts of the response to the pandemic of sars coronavirus, said Heinricht. The largest of its 12 plants can already produce 12 million bottles per week.

“It is a race to innovation “, he said, ” and we will not be a bottleneck. “

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