Insights | Colombia bets on vaccine production

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Colombia bets on vaccine production

After two decades of not producing vaccines, and with an investment of more than 50 million dollars, the Colombian government announced an important agreement with the Colombian company VaxThera and the Canadian Providence Therapeutics to produce antivirals against different diseases in Colombia and thus convert the country in a hub for distribution to South America and the Caribbean.

“Colombia will enter the production of vaccines in 2022 after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the companies Providence Therapeutics and VaxThera. The objective is to return to Colombia a vaccine production hub due to its location and characteristic of being in the Caribbean and on the corner of South America ”, said the Minister of Health Fernando Ruiz.

The Minister stressed that this agreement, which establishes the construction of a plant in Rionegro, Antioquia, is the first step towards the recovery of Colombia’s pharmaceutical autonomy in the production of vaccines to face known diseases and future pandemics similar to the of Covid-19.

Although President Iván Duque assured that in February 2022 the construction of the Rionegro plant will begin and that four months later it would be able to “produce small batches of vaccines”, the Ministry of Health clarified that in principle it will be a process of “fill and finish” dose packaging.

The fill and finish is the last part of the pharmaceutical production chain. It refers to the packaging, packaging and distribution of vaccines. However, the Government’s objective is that in the future the country has the capacity to produce these drugs from scratch and increase the volume of batches.

In addition, President Duque reported that as of February 2022, the Providence company will begin to develop clinical trials of vaccines against different variants of covid-19.

Technology and financing

As reported, the Rionegro vaccine production plant will have a cost of 54 million dollars that will be contributed by VaxThera (which will receive resources from Sura), the Canadian company Providence Therapeutics and an undetermined contribution from the national government.

“With the new technologies that are going to be brought to Colombia, we will be at the forefront in the production of vaccines such as RNA,” said Jorge Osorio, president of VaxThera.

This pharmaceutical technology, also known as messenger RNA, teaches the body’s cells to make a protein that later produces an immune response against the virus. Vaccines of this class were recently developed by companies such as Pfizer and Moderna to attack SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19.

According to ProColombia, in addition to the Canadian Providence Therapeutics, nine other multinational pharmaceutical companies are interested in the production of vaccines in Colombia and have made visits to the national territory advancing these processes

“The commitment of the National Government goes further and involves making the country a regional hub for the development, production, completion and packaging of vaccines in Colombia, with the support of international pharmaceutical houses, with transfer of technology, resources and knowledge,” he said, Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia.

Currently Colombia has an agreement with the Chinese Sinovac for vaccine filling processes and feasible production in the country. In addition, there have been approaches with the also Chinese Walvax Biotechnology Co. to produce biologics.

The production of vaccines in Colombia is of great importance, especially after Minister Fernando Ruiz pointed out that the possibility that citizens should be vaccinated at least once a year is not ruled out.

“It is likely that in the future we will have an annual vaccine for Covid-19, as for influenza. The pharmaceutical industry will improve the effectiveness of vaccines by achieving biologicals whose duration of immunity is longer,” said the Minister in an interview with the newspaper El Tiempo.

Finally, it is important to note that on December 16, the Colombian government officially expressed its support for the temporary release of patents in cases of health emergencies, an approach that countries such as India and South Africa have promoted before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Without prejudice to respect for the protection of intellectual property rights and the interventions carried out and carried out in this matter, Colombia expresses its support for the temporary release of patents for vaccines against covid-19 and their supplies”, assured the representative of the country in the last session of the Council of the Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).