Monday, January 24

Aspen in agreement to manufacture and distribute Aspenovax vaccine

“The allocation of vaccine production will be in the hands of Aspen and in doing so we are providing much greater security of supply for the Covid vaccine for Africa” ​​- Gus Attridge, Deputy CEO of Aspen Group.

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FIFI PETERS: Aspen shares got a lot of attention in the market today. By noon when I checked, stocks were up nearly 7% and that was before the company announced a new agreement with Johnson & Johnson that will give it the right to manufacture and sell Aspen’s own brand of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa. The vaccine will be known as Aspenovax.

We have Aspen Deputy CEO Gus Attridge joining Market Update for clarity. Gus, thank you very much for your time. Did anyone get the scoop on this deal before it was announced to the market?

GUS ATTRIDGE: No, Fifi. We posted a close-out warning notice last night saying we were making progress on the Covid-19 vaccine licensing discussions. So I think there was a lot of anticipation and advancement based on that warning. We posted it at close last night to make sure everyone had a chance to be aware of what we were warning about before the market opened this morning.

FIFI PETERS: Correct. Well, they certainly didn’t have to wait too long for you to act on the update. So let’s talk about this new agreement with Johnson & Johnson. Can you explain how important it is to us and what enables you to do that the previous agreement with Johnson & Johnson did not?

GUS ATTRIDGE: Sure, Fifi. In fact, it is an additional component beyond our existing fill and finish agreements, because Aspen will have the right to decide where the vaccine actually goes. Therefore, the allocation of vaccine production will be in the hands of Aspen and in doing so we are providing much greater security of supply for the Covid vaccine for Africa.

The territory of our agreement with Johnson & Johnson is the continent of Africa, and we will be dedicated to manufacturing Aspenovax for the African continent. It will be a Covid-19 vaccine manufactured in Africa for Africa. I believe that there is enormous importance in security of supply, but, beyond that, I also believe that it establishes a plan that, hopefully, will be a motivation for others on the continent to seek the opportunity to find solutions to some of our problems. health in the world. continent. I think we have shown that there is a way.

FIFI PETERS: Aspenovax: Is It Essentially A Generic Johnson & Johnson Vaccine?

GUS ATTRIDGE: It is not generic. It is the same vaccine with a different label.

FIFI PETERS: What does that mean for the price of the vaccine? How will it compare to Johnson & Johnson’s?

GUS ATTRIDGE: We will have to negotiate our prices with the major multilaterals that purchased the vaccine, and Aspen will seek to price it at a reasonable and sustainable price that benefits access to vaccines. But that’s steps on the track, Fifi. Certainly, we expect our price to be very fair and reasonable.

FIFI PETERS: I wanted to say that that also adds to the difficulty of obtaining sufficient security of vaccine supply for the continent: the question of price. I wonder if, given that the Aspenovax will be made on the mainland, you eliminate some additional costs that would be in the value chain if you were importing it.

Given that it is produced locally, can it be assumed that it will be cheaper than Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine for the mainland?

GUS ATTRIDGE: Fifi, that really depends on Johnson & Johnson’s pricing strategies going forward. What we have in our hands as Aspen is the ability to price this product ourselves, and we will seek to ensure that our pricing puts us in a position where we will command the demand that we would like to manufacture more volumes. of product at our manufacturing site in Gqeberha. We are creating the opportunity for more efficient manufacturing and as a consequence we will be looking to drive volumes through that manufacturing site. So we will price accordingly.

FIFI PETERS: So what does this mean for this deal? What does it possibly mean for new vaccines that can be manufactured as a result of the formation of new variants? I understand that Big Pharma is looking into the possibility of a new vaccine with concerns that the vaccines on the table currently will not be effective in combating the new variant of Omicron. So what does your agreement mean for the manufacture of new vaccines that may be forthcoming?

GUS ATTRIDGE: In regards to our dealings with Johnson & Johnson, the arrangements we have are a good faith commitment to them that, for any new development in this space, we will discuss a means and see if we can reach a win-win situation that make sense for both parties. That includes reinforcements and variants.

So the door is open, but it is very difficult to have firm agreement on something that is uncertain. We don’t know at this stage how the new variant of Omicron actually responds to existing vaccines. That work is ongoing right now and obviously those results.

FIFI PETERS: Finally Gus, how long does this agreement with Johnson & Johnson last?

GUS ATTRIDGE: Lasts until December 2026 at least. Before that stage, there are provisions for us to participate in discussions about the potential extension.

FIFI PETERS: It’s okay. We leave it there. Thanks for your time. Gus Attridge is the Deputy CEO of the Aspen Group, who has been talking about the new agreement with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture and distribute Aspenovax.

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