Better known here for its wide format printers, inks and piezo printheads – plus offset plates and chemistry, Fujifilm’s Billingham site employs approximately 800 staff, with about 300 of these to become involved in the production of the Novavax Covid vaccine.
Fujifilm DioSynth is a leading contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) for biologics, viral vaccines and gene therapies.
A Fujifilm UK spokesperson said: ‘The covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on public health and the global economy. Fujifilm is honoured to be part of the solution by leveraging our talented staff and world-class manufacturing facilities to bring a safe and effective vaccine to the world.
‘Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies has partnered with several Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutic manufacturers, including Novavax. For Novavax, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is manufacturing bulk drug substance of Novavax’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate across our sites in North Carolina, Texas, and here on Teesside, in Billingham, UK.
‘Our shared goal along with others in the biopharma industry is to ensure that a safe and effective vaccine is widely available.’
Novavax is a Maryland, USA company established in 1987. In 2018 it received a US$89 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for research into respiratory vaccines linked to Ebola, and a further US$384 million in May 2020 from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness. If clinical trials complete satisfactorily, Novavax is in line for a further US$1.6 billion from ‘Operation Warp Speed’ – a US Government and Private body created to defeat Covid-19 and headed by a four-star US Army General.,
Codenamed NVX-CoV2373, the vaccine is in Stage 3 clinical trials in USA, Mexico, and Australia and has passed Stage 3 in the UK, achieving an average 89.3 percent efficacy (95 percent against the original Wuhan coronavirus) against Covid-19 in the UK, with up to 60 percent effectiveness against the emerging variants, such as the South African mutation. It is a protein vaccine and uses nano technology and modified cells derived from moths, that mimic the ‘spikes’ on the Coronavirus virus but deliver a payload of immunity instead of the pathogen.
Australia will make 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine available during 2021 – they will be manufactured in Europe, possibly some will come from Billingham. In December, New Zealand signed an agreement with Novavax for 10.7 million doses.
The latest Australian Health Department advisory is:
‘Before the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in Australia, it must pass the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) rigorous assessment and approval processes. This includes assessment of its safety, quality and effectiveness. The TGA is actively monitoring COVID-19 vaccine development that is occurring both in Australia and around the world.’
The UK phase III clinical trial was the first such for the Novavax vaccine anywhere in the world, and the largest double-blind, placebo-controlled drug trial in the UK’s history, involving 15,000 participants.
Although Fujifilm DioSynth does not have a manufacturing facility in Australia, it does have a joint venture partnership with Melbourne biotech development company AdAlta, whose CEO is Dr Tim Oldman. Although not developing a Covid vaccine itself, AdAlta’s i-body protein is aimed at treating pulmonary fibrosis – a known after-effect of serious lung diseases such as Covid, whose sufferers can experience shortness of breath for months after the infection is cured – a result of fibrotic lung damage.
The Teeside region of England has helped Australia before – most of the steel for the Sydney Harbour Bridge was forged in Middlesborough, six miles from Billingham.
So, kudos to Fujifilm and its DioSynth division; playing a major role in defeating Covid-19 and its variants!
– Andy McCourt, Wideformatonline.com