Emergent gets a chance to redeem itself in mRNA vaccine deal with Providence Therapeutics – Endpoints News
One of the most notorious names in American drug manufacturing has landed a contract with a Canadian drugmaker looking to make waves in the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine game and fill in the gaps the two big mRNA companies have struggled to fill.
In a five-year deal worth about $90 million, Emergent BioSolutions agreed to provide CDMO services to Providence Therapeutics, including drug development, bulk drug substance formulation and final product manufacturing to help the drug’s development. Production is set to commence in 2022, if all goes according to plan.
“The Canadian government has been perpetuating this falsehood that Canada can’t make these vaccines,” Providence CEO Brad Sorenson said in a phone call with Endpoints News on Wednesday. “We can. We’ve made our vaccines in Canada, we’re going to make our vaccines with existing infrastructure in Canada with emergent, you know, and we didn’t need hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to do that.”
The deal is the latest in a flurry of moves from Providence. The company just announced that Everest will receive rights to Providence’s Covid-19 vaccine in Asian markets such as China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia in exchange for $100 million upfront in cash, combined with an additional up to $400 million in profit-sharing on the Covid-19 vaccines and milestone payments on collaborative and additional products.
The Providence deal serves as a bit of a potential redemption for Emergent. The company landed a contract with US President Donald Trump’s administration to manufacture drug substance for Covid-19 vaccines for both J&J and AstraZeneca, but shortly after, the contamination of batches — discovered at a J&J site by a quality control worker — led to the production of all batches being halted, and an investigation by the FDA. A Form 483 brought to light unsanitary conditions that included mold on the walls, and lackluster procedures, which included employees dragging bags of toxic waste through the facility.
Providence’s conversations with Emergent began long before the incident in Baltimore shed light on the company’s shortcomings.
“Our dialogue continued throughout that process,” Sorenson said. “It is two different sites …We’ve had thorough discussions with Everest in the Winnipeg site, we’ve had multiple trips back and forth with the various teams, and we’re comfortable that they’re going to be able to take the process that we’ve got and we’ve got the proper protocols in place to build and manufacture.”
Emergent was permitted to resume production in late July, the company confirmed to Endpoints in an email, but only got the chance to make J&J drug substance as AstraZeneca pulled out of its contract and sent its services to nearby CDMO Catalent.
Before those screw ups, Emergent touted its ability to manufacture more than 1 billion doses a year, and CEO Bob Kramer went on CNBC’s “Mad Money” in March to say just that following a $480 million, two-year deal with the US government.
Meanwhile, the team at Providence has been frustrated at the lack of help its gotten from the Canadian government.
A week ago, Bob Nelsen’s latest project Resilience announced that it will start making mRNA for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine at its new site in Canada, with the help of a $163 million contract from the government, while Moderna also struck a deal for its own plant in August, and AbCellera got $125.6 million to help build its 130,000-square-foot facility to develop antibodies.
That’s been frustrating for Providence CEO Brad Sorenson to watch as his company seemingly was left in the dust. In an interview with Bloomberg, he said that last year, his company was operating at a similar pace as Moderna. Now, they’re playing catchup.
“In March of 2020, we were one month behind Moderna,” he said. “Moderna received a billion dollars in support from Warp Speed and you can see where they’re at now. Providence received no support from the Canadian government until almost a year later and even then, we received $10 million, which is nominal at best,” he said.
“We could’ve been supplying vaccines to the world and we could’ve been adding to the solution as opposed to driving up prices and adding to the problem.”