Caixin
Aug 29, 2020 05:20 AM
BUSINESS & TECH

Fosun Pharma to Deliver German-Developed Vaccines to Hong Kong, Macao

A pharmaceutical biochemist neutralizes and separates genetic material from a SARS-CoV-2 test at a laboratory
A pharmaceutical biochemist neutralizes and separates genetic material from a SARS-CoV-2 test at a laboratory

Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., a unit of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International Ltd., will deliver 10 million doses of German partner BioNTech’s potential coronavirus vaccine to Hong Kong and Macao, the company said Thursday.

Fosun Pharma agreed with BioNTech SE to supply the BNT162 vaccines for Covid-19 under development by the German biotech company to the two special administrative regions, Fosun said. The company signed a letter of intent to allow Hong Kong’s Jacobson Pharma Corp. to distribute the vaccine locally once it is available.

The Covid-19 pandemic has sickened more than 24.5 million people worldwide as of Friday. Scientists and governments are racing to find effective vaccines and treatments while building up production capacity. Chinese drugmakers including China National Biotec Group Co., CanSino Biologics Inc. and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. are among the major global players in the vaccine development.

In June, the Oxford University and British–Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca PLC agreed with several countries and organizations to supply 200,000 doses of their potential vaccine products. In July, BioNTech and U.S.-based Pfizer Inc. signed vaccine supply contracts with the U.S. and Japanese governments. Earlier this month, American biotech company Moderna also agreed to provide 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S.

China’s Fosun Pharma entered an agreement in March with BioNTech to exclusively develop and commercialize its mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine products in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The BNT162 vaccines are RNA-based inoculations that encompass four candidates. RNA vaccines work by introducing an mRNA sequence, a molecule that tells cells what to build. The sequence is coded for antigens, the proteins that resemble those of the pathogen and enable the immune system to recognize and fight the virus. Compared with traditional vaccines, RNA vaccines are faster and cheaper to produce and are believed to be safer.

The drugmaker has yet to reveal any plan to produce and supply BioNTech’s vaccine products on the mainland. Wu Yifang, chief executive officer of Fosun Pharma, said the company is discussing possible contract manufacturing, packaging or even full production in China with its German partner.

In early August, Fosun Pharma said one of BioNTech’s BNT162 vaccines won approval to start the first of the three phases of clinical trials in China. A second candidate also applied to start human trials in the country, Wu said earlier this week.

Pfizer is working with BioNTech to commercialize the vaccines outside China. The pair won U.S. approval to conduct phase 2-3 clinical trials for one of the candidates, aiming to supply as many as 100 million doses worldwide by the end of this year.

Wu said he expects the vaccine to be approved in Hong Kong and Macao shortly after it obtains U.S. approval as the two regions accept global clinical trials data. The Chinese mainland, which requires local trials, won’t be much delayed, Wu said.

According to Huang Libin, an official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, 13 Chinese companies started building vaccine production capacity as of late July.

Fosun Pharma posted a 13% year-on-year rise in net profit Tuesday to 1.7 billion yuan ($247 million) in the first half of 2020, as revenue dropped 1.02% to 14 billion yuan. Sales of Covid-19 test kits and life-support ventilators contributed to the profit growth, the company said.

Contact reporter Han Wei (weihan@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

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