The purpose of President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to a Triangle biotech is simple: To see where the ‘magic’ happens, according to one of his top aides.
If all goes as expected, the drug component Morrisville-based Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB) is producing for Novavax (Nasdaq: NVAX) will be used in a Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial with up to 30,000 subjects.
“No vaccine has ever been produced and distributed in the time that we are trying to do it in,” Peter Navarro, a top economic adviser to Trump, told reporters on a briefing call Friday ahead of Monday’s scheduled visit.
FDB, a contract development and manufacturing organization based in Japan with its U.S. headquarters in Morrisville, announced Thursday that it had been tapped by Novavax to produce materials for its Covid-19 candidate. Novavax won a $1.6 billion contract with the federal government to produce the vaccine, part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, with the goal of delivering millions of vaccine doses to the U.S. population.
Navarro said the plan is to “turn on its head the usual way vaccines are developed.” Typically, it’s a lengthy process that starts with the science. A vaccine is identified, then subjected to a series of clinical trials on safety and efficacy. Then, “down the road, if you’ve got something that looks like it would work, you begin the process of building up the manufacturing capabilities until at some point you have vaccines to distribute.”
As scientists are developing the vaccine, manufacturers such as Fujifilm are working to solve the problem of how to deliver it at scale. “We’ve got at least five companies in the vaccine horse race,” Navarro said. “A number of them already have promising results, but in each case, what we’re doing is making sure that if a vaccine is viable, it can immediately get to people.”
Navarro calls FDB’s facilities “impressive,” and said it’s a good first stop.
“We’re going to be visiting a number of other vaccine-related sites over the course of the vaccine development, but this is a beautiful site to behold, really,” he said.