Gqeberha, South Africa – Aspen, a global multinational specialty pharmaceutical company, earlier today hosted President Cyril Ramaphosa and an accompanying government delegation at its flagship manufacturing site in the Eastern Cape. Aspen has invested in excess of R3.0 billion at this sterile manufacturing site, the single largest investment in the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa. The new sterile facility contains high-technology, state-of-the-art pharmaceutical equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture advanced sterile medicines, including vaccines.
These investments at the Gqeberha manufacturing site, which has been a cornerstone of both local ARV and MDR TB manufacture, demonstrate Aspen’s ongoing and enduring commitment to South Africa and the continent. With roots firmly embedded in African soil, a continent which carries a disproportionately high disease burden, the investment in advanced pharmaceutical technology enables Aspen to continue to contribute to improved access to treatment, respond to public health emergencies and to create significant economic, export and job creation opportunities. This facility will allow Aspen to manufacture multiple and complex sterile products, such as vaccines and Aspen’s global anaesthetics. It will also ensure quality and security of both domestic and international supply.
As South Africa and the world grapples with the management of the COVID pandemic, this strategic investment will materially contribute to the management of this pandemic. Through the collaboration announced between Aspen and Johnson & Johnson, Aspen is the only manufacturing site on the African continent and in the southern hemisphere selected by Johnson & Johnson to compound, fill, finish and package the Janssen (a Johnson & Johnson company) COVID-19 vaccine. Aspen and Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to Africa is further underpinned by continued collaboration to enhance the amount of vaccines produced at this facility, with most of the production serving the needs of Africans. We are very proud and grateful to have the opportunity to partner with one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced healthcare companies who has committed to ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This has been demonstrated through their actions and was fundamental in our considerations of which company to partner.
The Aspen and Johnson & Johnson project teams responsible for the technical transfer process at the new sterile facility, worked tireless ensuring collaboration in keeping to the ambitious goals and beating timelines. During this time, the Aspen project team have strengthened their technical competencies, complementing the capabilities of these highly skilled Aspen employees and enhancing a knowledge base in South Africa that will contribute to further solving future public challenges.
Most of the vaccines manufactured at this Aspen’s new sterile facility in 2021 will be supplied to South Africa and the member states of the African Union. The South African government agreement with Johnson & Johnson, is to deliver more than 30 million doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine to South Africans, with the first deliveries being made in April 2021. The African Union is expected to receive over 400 million doses.
Addressing delegates at Aspen’s sterile facility in Gqeberha, H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa said, “We are here to see how we can save lives. I am pleased to inform you that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to make 250 million vaccines available to Africa with 30 million for South Africans. Coming here to this facility in Gqeberha has been an honour. Aspen belongs to us as South Africans and it is making life saving vaccines and we as South Africans must be in pole position to receive these vaccines and for them to be made available to the continent immediately. We are pleased of what we have seen here and the commitment of Aspen’s people. This world class facility is in another league and I congratulate Aspen on this facility to manufacture vaccines for our country and for our continent. I would also like to congratulate Aspen on living up to their promise of investing more than R3 billion in our country.”
Stephen Saad, Aspen Group Chief Executive said, “This is a watershed moment for Aspen as we continue to implement our strategic vision of delivering quality, affordable medicines using high-technology pharmaceutical equipment, contributing to improved health outcomes. This vision has come with much sacrifice and perseverance however we have been rewarded through the endorsement of the relevance of our product portfolio and capital investments at our manufacturing facilities. Our sterile capacity is a big step to ensuring that Africa has both the capacity and capabilities to reduce its reliance on other countries in addressing its healthcare priorities. The manufacture of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine builds on the global contributions we have made with both our anaesthetics portfolio and dexamethasone supply. We are particularly proud that this vaccine manufacture is taking place in Africa. We hope that our success will inspire and give confidence to others to further invest in our continent. We have set ourselves a further target to become the pandemic solution for Africa. Security of supply for Africans is best achieved through African facilities. Aspen intends to assist with this goal by targeting further enhancement of capacities on the existing sterile footprint to ensure that we have the capabilities to give one liquid dose of vaccine per African person.”
“Finally, with all the capacities and investments, this could not have been achieved without the dedication, commitment and passion of the Aspen and Johnson & Johnson technical teams. To each and every one of you, we at Aspen, in fact every citizen of our continent and millions more across the globe owe you a massive debt of gratitude. You are our heroes. Thank you, Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika.”
Premier Oscar Mabuyane said, “The commitment for this investment was made at the Investment Conference initiated by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018, where Aspen announced plans to invest 3.4 billion in our province to manufacture sterile anaesthetics, a niche and high tech manufacturing capability that presents both domestic and export opportunities. We view their investment as the fruits of President Ramaphosa’s leadership and the confidence of social partners to the direction he is leading the country to.”
“At that time Aspen made their announcement, we did not know that we would be visited by the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to decimate the people of our province, our country and the world. But Aspen being the global player it is in the pharmaceutical field, quickly focused on playing their part to find a solution to our present day health pandemic. The vaccine that is manufactured here, some of its research trials were done at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital’s Nemacru in Mthatha. We are a province that is becoming a manufacturing based economy, producing quality products to solve the challenges of the world. We hope that the vaccine that is manufactured here will soon reach our people and protect them against the Covid-19 pandemic.”