With J&J's COVID-19 shot on tap, Indian vaccine maker ramps up manufacturing with Akorn deal

J&J and Biological E reached a tech transfer deal for a COVID-19 shot last week. (Pixabay)(Getty Images)

In the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, it's all hands on deck to secure enough manufacturing capacity for an expected global rollout. Johnson & Johnson recently tapped an Indian partner for its candidate, and now that teammate is expanding to help meet demand.

Hyderabad, India-based Biological E has acquired a 39,000-square-foot facility from Akorn India that could add more than 165 million doses to its annual capacity as it works with J&J to scale production of the pharma giant's vaccine.

Last week, J&J and Biological E announced a technology transfer deal that will allow the Indian drugmaker to produce the recombinant DNA-based shot, which is currently in phase 1/2 human trials.

With the Akorn deal, Biological E will pick up a major vaccine manufacturing site in Himachal Pradesh that "may be able" to handle commercial production of J&J's vaccine, the company said in a release. The site currently has capacity for 135 million doses per year with the ability to immediately expand by another 30 million, Biological E said.

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J&J's agreement with Biological E comes as the New Jersey-based drugmaker is working to secure a worldwide suite of deals for its COVID-19 shot.

Late last week, J&J revealed talks to supply the EU with 200 million doses of its vaccine, pending successful clinical trials, with the possibility of a 200 million-dose expansion.

Those discussions come right on the heels of J&J scoring a $1 billion deal with the Trump administration's Warp Speed initiative for 100 million doses. The government aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine to the U.S. by Jan. 1.

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Also last week, J&J inked a supply pact with the U.K. for 30 million doses, which could be be shipped by mid-2021. Britain's potential stockpile is now up to 340 million doses from six different companies. If they all work, that would be enough for everyone in the U.K. to get five inoculations, several press outlets calculated.