Janssen Pharmaceuticals of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has concluded an agreement with South Africa based company Aspen to manufacture and distribute Covid-19 vaccines in Africa.

The companies intend to boost Covid-19 inoculation rates in Africa through this alliance.

Under the deal, J&J will provide Covid-19 vaccine drug substance to Aspen, which will manufacture and make the finished vaccines available under its own brand name Aspenovax.

The vaccines will be provided to all 55 Member States of the African Union (AU), as well as crucial multilateral entities that back the Covid-19 inoculation campaign in Africa, including the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX Facility.

J&J has so far supplied more than 200 million doses of the vaccine to the continent, under various advance purchase agreements with South Africa, AVAT and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, together with donations from the government. 

Aspen is serving as the contract manufacturer of J&J since November 2020

The latest development comes after an announcement in November last year on the conclusion of the non-binding term sheet between J&J and Aspen. 

The deal terms extend the current technology transfer and manufacturing agreements between the companies granting Aspen the rights to manufacture Aspenovax from J&J-supplied drug substances.

Furthermore, the expanded agreement facilities in offering Aspenovax in African markets leveraging agreements with various multilateral organisations and national governments of AU member states.

Through the latest deal, Aspen obtained enabling intellectual property from J&J and hopes to extend the agreement to incorporate new versions of the drug substance, such as for viral variants or booster formulations.

Johnson & Johnson Cilag International Global Public Health head Martin Fitchet said: “From the outset of this pandemic, we aimed to develop a simple-to-use and accessible vaccine that could be transported around the world through standard vaccine distribution channels. 

“We initiated clinical trials in all regions of the world to generate evidence across multiple geographies and diverse, at-risk populations and forged a strategic partnership with Aspen in Africa and others to manufacture our vaccine globally.”