COVID-19 vaccine maker BioNTech SE yesterday said it would build a Southeast Asia headquarters and manufacturing site in Singapore to produce hundreds of millions of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines per year.
Construction of the site would start this year, and it could become operational by 2023, the German company said in a statement.
“With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall network capacity, and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA vaccines and therapies to people around the world,” BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin said.
The vaccine produced by BioNTech jointly with Pfizer Inc of the US late last year became the first COVID-19 jab to be approved for use in the West.
It is now supplying more than 90 countries worldwide, and is expecting to ramp up its production to up to 3 billion doses by the end of the year from 2.5 billion doses expected previously.
The pace would further accelerate to more than 3 billion doses next year.
The Singapore site would be the German company’s first mRNA manufacturing facility outside Europe, and would have an estimated capacity of several hundred million doses of such vaccines.
Its partner Pfizer operates production sites in the US as well as in Belgium.
To raise global production capacities for their COVID-19 vaccine, BioNTech and Pfizer have set out licensing and manufacturing partnerships with other pharmaceutical companies such as Merck KGaA, Novartis AG and Sanofi SA.
BioNTech and Pfizer have said that the extension of such cooperation is what would help ensure a wider supply of vaccines, and not a patent waiver as the US has sought.
Messenger RNA genetic technology trains the body to reproduce spike proteins, similar to that found on the novel coronavirus.
When exposed to the real virus later, the body recognizes the spike proteins and is able to fight them off.
US pharmaceutical firm Moderna Inc uses the same technology for its vaccine.
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