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Stephen Saad, Aspen Chief Executive address to President Ramaphosa and his delegation at Aspen’s flagship manufacturing site in Gqberha, Eastern Cape

“Our Aspen philosophy has always been to give purpose to life. This is best achieved by contributing meaningfully to others.

Aspen has defined itself and continues to define itself as a company that serves humanity, particularly the most vulnerable amongst us. It was over a decade ago that we made a special announcement on a prior pandemic. Aspen had achieved a global first. The first tentatively approved FDA generic ARV. As a result, this site became the backbone of our country’s roll-out of ARVs, making product for millions of our patients monthly and saving so many lives from that pandemic. Patients we continue to support to this day.

Today we are proud to share with you our contribution to the COVID pandemic.

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 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 create significant economic, export and job creation opportunities. 

This facility will enable Aspen to manufacture multiple and complex sterile products, such as vaccines and Aspen’s global anaesthetics products. It will also ensure quality and security of both domestic and international supply. 

As SA and the world grapples with the management of the COVID pandemic, it will also meaningfully 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 COVID-19 vaccine.

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 they have demonstrated through their actions and was fundamental in our own considerations of whom to partner.

The Aspen and Johnson & Johnson project teams responsible for the technical transfer process at new sterile facility, worked tireless ensuring collaboration in keeping to the ambitious goals and even 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. 

The majority of the vaccines manufactured at this facility in 2021 will be supplied to South Africa and the member states of the African Union. The South African government has agreement with Johnson & Johnson, to deliver more than 30 million doses of the Janssen vaccine to South Africans, with the first deliveries being made in April 2021. The African Union will receive 400 million doses.

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 that contribute to improved health outcomes. 

This vision has come with much sacrifice and perseverance. However, we have been rewarded through endorsement of the relevance of our product portfolio and capital investments in our manufacturing facilities. The manufacture of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine builds on the global contributions we have made to COVID through sustained supply of both our anaesthetic portfolio and dexamethasone.

We are particularly proud that this vaccine manufacture is taking place in Africa. Our sterile capacity is a big step forward to ensuring that Africa has both the capacity and capabilities to reduce its reliance on other countries in addressing the healthcare priorities on the continent. We hope that our success will inspire and give confidence to others to further invest in our continent. 

 At Aspen, 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.

A special thank you, to the President, SAHPRA and the Ministers of Health, Trade Industry and Competition and their departments for their unwavering support and commitment and in assisting us, by making this journey as seamless as possible.

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.” 

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