Mainz, 1 January 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive of German vaccine developer BioNTech, is hoping to have a plan in place by late January for increased production of its Covid-19 vaccine.
“We are trying to gain new cooperation partners to produce for us. But it’s not as if there were specialized unused factories lying around across the world that could produce vaccine of the required quality from one day to the next,” Sahin told the Spiegel news magazine.
“By late January, we will have clarity as to whether we can produce more and how much,” he added.
The current situation regarding vaccine availability in the pandemic was looking “not rosy,” Sahin said, “because we are lacking other approved vaccines and we have to fill this gap with our vaccine.”
BioNTech, based in Mainz, is working together with its US partner Pfizer to scale up its production.
The companies’ Covid-19 vaccine received EU regulatory approval shortly before Christmas, prompting the launch of a huge vaccination drive just days ago.
The European Commission has also pre-emptively ordered vaccines from other producers, for which regulatory approval is still outstanding.
“There was the assumption that many more companies would come with vaccines. Apparently there was the impression that we will get enough, it won’t be that bad and we have it under control. This surprised me,” Sahin said.
Asked about the possibility of licensing out the Pfizer/BioNTech drug for production elsewhere, the scientist stressed the complexity of the mRNA technology on which the vaccine is based.
“You can’t just switch over, from producing vaccine instead of aspirin or cough syrup. The process requires years of expertise and the appropriate structural and technological equipment.”