With $500M in local pledges, Recipharm plans Moroccan factory to help Africa secure 'vaccine sovereignty'

Vaccines
Recipharm late last year agreed to help Moderna manufacture its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty Images)

With the COVID-19 pandemic flagging weaknesses in the world's pharma supply chain, contract manufacturer Recipharm is stepping up to help in Africa.

In a bid to grow local biologics and vaccine manufacturing, CDMO Recipharm has laid plans for a new fill-finish factory in Morocco. Set for construction on 42 hectares (around 104 acres) of greenfield space, the plant is expected to come online by 2023, Recipharm said in a release.

The company is teaming up with local authorities on the plant, which have pledged financial support over the next five years. The project has scored a roughly half-billion dollar commitment from the Moroccan government and a consortium of the country's top banks, the release said.

The facility will create around 100 new jobs and have an annual capacity of about 300 million units, a Recipharm spokesperson said over email.

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The project is aimed at bolstering capacity and production across the continent and should help Africa establish "vaccine sovereignty" alongside access to future biologics, Recipharm said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed global access to drugs and vaccines under a spotlight. In May, President Joe Biden pledged support for a controversial World Trade Organization proposal—first put forward by India and South Africa—to temporarily suspend intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

The idea, meant to help stand up production in developing countries, has drawn fire from CEOs at pharma majors Roche, Pfizer and Moderna plus top industry lobbying group PhRMA.

Recipharm didn't say whether the upcoming plant would be used for COVID-19 shots specifically. It joined the pandemic fight in December when it pledged to help manufacture Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at its facility in Monts, France.

The Morocco plant, which Recipharm plans to operate itself, will "mirror" a new fill-finish line it added in France "on a larger scale." The company didn't say how big the upcoming plant would be.

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Elsewhere, Recipharm recently snared European clearance for its French factory and started producing Moderna's mRNA vaccine there, the company said earlier this month.

The Moderna deal adds fuel to Recipharm's global expansion plans, the company said. Recipharm also says it's building out a safety stock of raw materials and finished product to make sure it meets pandemic orders.