Swiss gov't looks to boost domestic COVID-19 vaccine, therapy production

People wait in the registration area at the Impfzentrum Basel Stadt vaccination center at the Congress Center of the Messe Basel fairground, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Basel, Switzerland March 18, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH, April 14 (Reuters) - Switzerland will investigate ways to strengthen domestic COVID-19 vaccine and drug development and production, the government said on Wednesday, reacting as global demand outstrips supply due to rising infections at home and abroad.

The government also announced it was setting aside $100 million to buy costly antibody therapies, including from U.S.-based Regeneron (REGN.O) and Swiss drugmaker Roche (ROG.S), in part for those who are still unvaccinated but live in households where somebody has been infected.

Switzerland is home to Lonza (LONN.S) that makes drug ingredients for Moderna's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine, but the government has so far shied from direct capacity investments.

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That could change with this new push, announced at a press conference where officials also outlined easing of lockdown measures despite rising infections. read more

"This could clearly have to do with vaccines," Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters of the new push. "We are going to look into what we can do, what seems realistic and what is wanted, to secure access for our entire population to these treatments."

The $100 million Switzerland is now setting aside for the treatments comes after Roche and Regeneron on Tuesday announced trial results indicating their REGEN-COV antibody cocktail helped prevent symptomatic infections, even among people who live together with somebody with COVID-19. (

"Experience shows that these treatments are a very good thing," Berset said, adding that the antibody therapies have been reserved. "These are very expensive treatments, but even so, they're substantially cheaper than long-term intensive care."

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Reporting by John Miller; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi

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