Japan’s JCR Pharma to build new plant to produce COVID-19 vaccine solution

Economy Health

TOKYO (Reuters) - JCR Pharmaceuticals Co said on Thursday it would build a new plant in Japan to expand production of ingredients for COVID-19 vaccines over the longer term.

JCR Pharma along with Daiichi Sankyo Co and other Japanese partners are cooperating to produce and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University. The Japanese government has arranged to buy 120 million doses of the vaccine, which was submitted to domestic regulators for approval on Feb. 5.

JCR Pharma said in a statement that it has been making bulk substances for the vaccine at an existing plant but will build another one to comply with government requirements.

The Japanese drugmaker signed a contract in December to make substances for the AstraZeneca vaccine. But as a condition for a government grant to reinforce the country’s vaccine production capability through 2030, it needed to build another facility.

JCR said it will spend about 11.6 billion yen ($108.28 million) to build the facility in Kobe City, western Japan, with construction due to start in July and finish by October 2022.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is a critical component in Japan’s inoculation plan, as the doses will be made mostly in the country, and don’t need to be stored at the ultra-cold temperatures required for Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Japan kicked off its COVID-19 inoculation campaign in the middle of February using Pfizer’s vaccine, the first to be approved by Japanese regulators. But the Pfizer doses have been imported from European factories and are in short supply.

Local media has reported that Moderna Inc will file for approval of its vaccine as early as Friday via its Japanese partner Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

($1 = 107.1300 yen)

(Reporting by Rocky Swift; Editing by Susan Fenton)