Catalent to make drug substance for AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) - Catalent Inc said on Monday its Maryland facility would make the drug substance used in the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford, starting “late in the third quarter” this year.

The New Jersey-based company said the drug substance will be made at its commercial gene therapy manufacturing facility in Harmans.

Catalent would supply the so-called viral vector, which is a genetically modified harmless virus designed to trick the human body into producing certain parts of the coronavirus. These proteins, in turn, prompt the immune system to develop an arsenal for any real COVID-19 infections.

There are no approved vaccines for COVID-19, and AstraZeneca is among the companies leading the race to develop a safe and effective option.

AstraZeneca has signed multiple manufacturing and supply deals globally, including in the United States, Britain, South Korea and Brazil, resulting in a target to make over 2 billion doses of the experimental vaccine.

Catalent struck a deal with AstraZeneca in June to provide vial-filling and packaging capacity at its manufacturing facility in Anagni, Italy and prepare for supplying hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine from this month, and potentially through until March 2022.

The company said it would prepare the Harmans facility to enable multiple production trains to run in parallel to produce the vaccine candidate drug substance “late in the third quarter” of this year.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Sherry Jacob-Phillips