A company set up to provide safe, cheap prefilled syringes to developing countries is turning its expertise loose on the U.S. with the help of HHS and its first investor and financial promoter.
Jefferies Financial Group is ponying up $10 million for the effort to build up to eight “surge” fill-finish facilities in the U.S. that could produce hundreds of millions of syringes for emergencies like the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to seed capital, Jefferies said it is providing expertise to help find investors for the venture announced last week by Health and Human Services.
HHS awarded a $450 million grant to Stamford, Connecticut-based ApiJect to create the system it is calling Rapid Aseptic Packaging of Injectable Drugs. RAPID is intended to enable the Strategic National Stockpile to quickly fill and finish hundreds of millions of prefilled syringes in short order.
“Our support of RAPID puts us right where all leadership companies belong—on the front lines of the war against this global threat,” Jefferies said in a statement attributed to both CEO Rich Handler and President Brian Friedman. “We need to be sure that when therapeutics and vaccines for COVID-19 become available health care professionals have the resources and ability to administer them quickly and effectively on a massive, global scale.”
ApiJect Ltd. was founded in 2015 by social entrepreneur Marc Koska, who had already spent decades working to prevent deaths in developing countries from the reuse of contaminated needles. Koska invented the ApiJect device so it could be used by healthcare workers anywhere. The company describes it as a low-cost “compact, prefilled, single-dose “soft” syringe—manufactured using Blow-Fill-Seal (BFS) technology.” ApiJect uses manufacturing contractors throughout the world to produce them.
ApiJect will handle the R&D, prototyping and stability testing of select medical countermeasures from the Strategic National Stockpile to handle a “population-scale surge response.” Not only did HHS put the onus on ApiJect to create the year-round manufacturing network but also to come up with the investments and philanthropy money to build it.
“As vaccines and therapeutics become available, we must not be caught short on our capacity to deliver emergency drugs to Americans in need," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in announcing the project which it has been working on for a year. "The creation of RAPID is the right move at the right time, both for immediate and longer-term national public health emergency needs."