Global supplies shortage and dependence on West spell urgency, opportunity

Japan pharma cranks up output of COVID vaccine materials

Nikkei -- May 06
Japanese pharmaceutical and medical material makers are expanding domestic output of ingredients and production materials for vaccines in response to a creeping shortage of supplies globally.

Western manufacturers control nearly the entire market for vaccine active ingredients and production materials. When it comes to vaccine production, "Japan is dependent on Western makers," said Osamu Nagayama, who serves as president of the Japan Bioindustry Association and honorary chairman of Chugai Pharmaceutical.

Rising demand for COVID vaccines is expected to tighten supplies of related materials for some time. Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical is manufacturing a vaccine developed by U.S.-based Novavax. Shionogi & Co. and Daiichi Sankyo, also of Japan, are independently developing their own vaccine candidates. But without a stable supply of ingredients, domestic production may be disrupted.

Takara Bio, the country's largest producer of reagents, will manufacture and sell a reagent for messenger RNA vaccines. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA.

Japan mainly imports these reagents, such as the ones made by U.S. company Thermo Fisher Scientific. But supplies reportedly have become scarce amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Takara Bio will make the mRNA reagent in Kusatsu, a city near Kyoto, and the company looks to put various reagents on the market this fall.