DTI says gov’t must offer perks to encourage local manufacturing of vaccines

FIRMS considering domestic vaccine manufacturing will need faster processing and government procurement priority, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, in a briefing on Thursday night, named four firms eyeing local production of vaccines, including coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

“(The companies) will subscribe to all requirements and submit all the documents, kailangan lang ma-prioritize para mapabilis ang proseso ng pag-put up ng planta dito,” he said.

Mr. Lopez added that the companies would be taking business risks in putting up manufacturing facilities, especially if the government decides to buy products abroad.

“Ito po ay ini-encourage po sana na may government procurement of locally produced vaccines subject to standards and prices,” he said, adding that government commitment to buy locally-made vaccines would help facilitate the companies’ decision to build domestic facilities.

Mr. Lopez in his presentation showed that United Laboratories Inc. (Unilab) has confirmed it would work on manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine locally. The fill and finish plant, in which active ingredients are imported for local packaging, could start operations by 2023. The company plans to export to other countries in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Glovax Biotech Corp. has signed an agreement with technology partner Eubiologics for a P7.5-billion Clark-based fill and finish plant that could start operations in October 2022.

On the other hand, IG Biotech, Inc. and IP Biotech are looking at an agreement with the government to produce COVID-19 vaccines as well as vaccines that help prevent pneumococcal disease and influenza.

Dr. Zen Biotech Inc. also plans to produce second-generation recombinant vaccines for COVID-19 and other pharmaceuticals, with technology providers from India and China. The company is also eyeing a possible partner from the United States for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The first two phases of the Dr. Zen project would cost $40 million, and the fill and finish facilities in the First Bulacan Industrial Estate could start operations by next year.

Science and Technology Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara has said some of theses companies are planning to start manufacturing vaccines that are already “well established” such as those that help prevent measles and rubella, before making COVID-19 vaccines when clinical trials are done.

The Board of Investments last month said such local manufacturing could provide supplies for the latter stages of the population’s inoculation against COVID-19, or for potential additional jabs. — Jenina P. Ibañez