International financiers inject US$700.5m into Aspen to bolster its operations amid Covid-19 vaccine drive

SOUTH AFRICA – Aspen Pharmacare has secured a US$700.5 million financing package led by International Finance Institution (IFC),  to support the pharmaceutical firm’s operations, including the production of vaccines.

Joining the largest healthcare investment and mobilization globally to date were French development institution Proparco, German development finance corporation DEG and the US International Development Finance Corporation.

The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is mobilising the deal and contributing US$237 million, Proparco is providing US$184.8 million; Germany’s development institution DEG, US$170.5 million; and the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) the remaining US$118.4 million.

The financing would help Aspen to refinance existing debt and strengthen the company’s balance sheet, supporting Aspen’s operations, including production of vaccines and other therapies in African and emerging markets, a statement said.

The four development finance institutions also have the objective of helping to facilitate an increase in vaccine manufacturing know-how within Africa by partnering with Aspen.

Aspen has partnered with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to compound, finish, fill and package Janssen, a J&J Covid19 vaccine, at its sterile facility in South Africa.

The group recently built a fully certified sterile injectables facility at its existing site at Gqeberha.

Stephen Saad, Aspen’s chief executive, said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to access this funding package arranged by IFC. Aspen’s teams are working tirelessly to optimise production of the J&J Covid-19 vaccine for Africa at our manufacturing site in Gqeberha, South Africa. We are actively seeking opportunities to further extend and capacitate Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing at this world-class production facility. Aspen is seeking to play a meaningful role in contributing to the delivering the majority of Africa’s needs from production sites located in Africa.”

“Aspen’s teams are working tirelessly to optimise production of the J&J Covid-19 vaccine for Africa at our manufacturing site in Gqeberha, South Africa

Stephen Saad – CEO, Aspen

In November 2020, Aspen said its wholly-owned South African subsidiary, Aspen Pharmacare, had entered into a preliminary agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV – two of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson – for the technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Ad26.CoV2-S.

The country’s biggest drugmaker said it had agreed to provide capacity required for the manufacture of J&J’s vaccine candidate, which is still in clinical trials, at its Port Elizabeth facility.

The agreement with J&J will see Aspen perform formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for the U.S. firm, the company said.

The agreement between Aspen and J&J was subject to the completion of technology transfer activities and finalisation of certain commercial terms.

The technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate come after Aspen invested over US$184.2 million in the facility. There is now high technology equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture state-of-the-art sterile drugs and vaccines, packaged into vials and pre-filled syringes.

Makhtar Diop, the IFC’s managing director, said the pandemic had highlighted Africa’s reliance on global vaccine supply chains, which had left the continent vulnerable to disruptions and delays.

Through financing Aspen the World Bank Group aimed to contribute to Africa’s vaccine manufacturing development and support knowledge sharing and technology exchanges.

Monika Beck, a member of the DEG’s management board, said: “We are convinced that it is essential to join forces to fight the pandemic effectively, and the private sector plays a key role in this.” 

Still in South Africa, South Africa’s Biovac Institute – a joint venture between the government and private sector – said it was in talks to produce some of the vaccines the country needs to protect itself against Covid-19.

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