With AstraZeneca deal, Wockhardt joins U.K.'s coronavirus vaccine manufacturing push

India-based Wockhardt has signed up to complete fill and finish work on millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for exclusive use in the U.K., including AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford's frontrunner candidate. 

Under a deal with the British government announced Monday, Wockhardt will help supply the country with COVID-19 vaccine doses, using its CP Pharmaceuticals label in Wrexham, North Wales. The company has set aside a single fill-finish line—where vaccines are packaged in the final manufacturing stage before deployment—to build out U.K. shot supplies over the next 18 months, Wockhardt said in a release. 

So far, the key partnership in Wockhardt's supply deal is its arrangement with AstraZeneca, one of the leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine race. The British drug major has pledged to supply 30 million doses to the U.K. by September—part of a broader mission to deliver 100 million doses before the year is out. Wockhardt will handle the initial doses under this fill-finish pact, chairman Habil Khorakiwala said in a virtual press briefing. 

Beyond the AstraZeneca agreement, Wockhardt is ensuring vaccine capacity in the U.K. for a number of potential shots.

"We have made significant progress in securing a diverse portfolio of potential vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, adding a fourth vaccine candidate from GSK and Sanofi last week," Kate Bingham, chair of the U.K. Vaccines Task Force said.

"The agreement with Wockhardt will boost our capability to ensure that from the moment a successful vaccine is identified we will be able to produce the quantities of vaccine required, as quickly as possible, for the people who need it,” Bingham said.

RELATED: Pfizer, BioNTech keep COVID vaccine deals rolling with 120M-dose Japan pact

While the company's headquarters is in India, Wockhardt has long supplied drugs in the U.K.—it's one of the largest suppliers to the country's National Health Service, the company said—plus Europe, the U.S. and beyond. The 612,000-square-foot Wrexham site employs 400 staffers and boasts prior sterile injectable know-how through drug manufacturing for diabetes, anticoagulation, pain management and more.

Wockhardt expects to deliver its first batch of finished shots later this year, Ravi Limaye, M.D., managing director of Wockhardt U.K. said. Meanwhile, the company aims to start its Wrexham fill-finish line by September, the New York Times reported

The U.K. has penned a number of high-profile vaccine supply pacts in recent weeks, including the agreement for 100 million doses of AstraZeneca and Oxford's vaccine candidate. The U.K. shelled out £65.5 million ($79 million) toward that deal, before pivoting to ink additional advance purchases from Pfizer and BioNTech, set to deliver 30 million doses of its mRNA-based candidate, and niche vaccine maker Valneva, which pledged to turn out 100 million U.K. shots at its plant in Scotland

And last week, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline hopped on the supply pact spree, teeing up the U.K for 60 million doses of their leading recombinant DNA candidate. With the slew of supply deals, the island nation—dependent upon imports for many drugs, including vaccines—has secured enough COVID-19 jabs to inoculate the entire population, with shots to spare in case one or more of those candidates fail to work as planned. 

RELATED: Pfizer, BioNTech snare $1.95B deal with U.S. government for 100M-plus doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Plus, AstraZeneca and Oxford have busied themselves shoring up the manufacturing component of their massive inoculation rollout.  In early June, Oxford Biomedica inked a five-year deal with the U.K.'s Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) to scale up the CDMO's Oxbox facility for production of the university's COVID-19 hopeful. 

Prior to that deal, AstraZeneca struck a manufacturing and distribution order with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to the tune of $750 million. The vaccine distributors will start delivery of 300 million doses by the end of the year. AstraZeneca also tapped the Serum Institute of India—which recently got the OK to run late-stage trials on AstraZeneca's shot in India—to deploy an additional 400 million doses in low- and middle income countries before year's end.

And in the U.S., the British drug giant recently upgraded a shot manufacturing pact with the Maryland-based CDMO Emergent BioSolutions, throwing an extra $174 million on top of the $87 million it had awarded Emergent back in early June to reserve manufacturing space at one of the company's plants. With a suite of manufacturing deals under its belt, and the Wockhardt agreement building out British supplies, AstraZeneca is chugging along toward its ultimate goal of producing more than 2 billion shots per year by 2021.