Five local companies began talks with foreign technology providers to set up modular facilities for the production of vaccines against COVID-19 in the country.
The Board of Investments said the investment in a modular facility from foreign technology providers could reach P300 million each. One vaccine distributor, however, plans to put up a plant that might cost P7 billion.
It said the five local companies already identified possible technology partners, including from the United States, China, India, Korea and Russia.
“Based on our meetings with the vaccine panel, some of these local firms have initiated talks with their preferred technology providers. The last firm cited a possible collaboration with a German provider, but there are no formal talks yet,” said BOI executive director Corieh Dichosa.
She said the estimated P300 million project cost is only for a “fill-finish” modular facility which can actually accommodate a vaccine. “However, this does not include consumables and other costs like land and lease.”
Among the five technology providers, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and Korea’s EU Biologics, a unit the LG group, were keen on having co-production operations in the Philippines, according to the BOI.
EU Biologics has a standing partnership with Philippine vaccine supplier Glovax Biotech Corp. which proposed to establish a P7-billion vaccine production plant.
The BOI said a recent addition to the group is a university research unit in the United States which could provide cheaper technology platform for the Philippines.
“They treat vaccine manufacturing as a public good. They’re actually open to license with assurance of cost-friendly vaccines compared to the other vaccines in the market. With the technology, they have it will be easy to ramp up production. Hopefully, something will come out of our meeting,” Dichosa said.
She said the local firms were doing cost-benefit analysis to determine the viability of the Philippines as a vaccine market and the type vaccines that should be manufactured here.
Most of them are looking at the domestic market along with the export market, she said.
A fill-finish facility is a simple investment that involves getting the antigen from technology suppliers and transferring them to vials and ampoules.
Dichosa said it is a step towards establishing more modular facilities and eventually a vaccine manufacturing industry.
“I think its high time for us to have a vaccine manufacturing facility. We’re working very closely with the private sector and the Department of Health. In addition, there’s a bill in Congress on a virology institute that will be located in Clark. The government has already allotted a budget. That will be part of the ecosystem that we’re looking at in terms of really encouraging a lot of private investments to go into vaccine manufacturing,” she said.
She said while some companies like Glovax were looking at producing next-generation COVID vaccines, others were planning to start with the simple flu vaccines.
Dichosa said the National Development Corp. was willing to provide government equity up to 10 percent of total project cost to help them kick-start local manufacturing.