International Pharmaceutical Companies Seek Vaccine Production Opportunities in Colombia

04 January 2022
The agreement between the Canadian multinational Providence and the Colombian Vaxthera is the first one that will allow the production of vaccines against covid-19 and other pathologies

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the priority of Colombia’s National Government has been focused on mitigating the impact of the coronavirus, promoting mass vaccination and the implementation of strategies for the safe economic reactivation of the country. As a matter of fact, over 64 million doses of vaccines against covid-19 have been applied in Colombia. Of this number, more than 32.3 million correspond to the complete vaccination scheme, that is, 63.5% of the population. If compared, Colombia is above the vaccination rate of most of the other countries within the continent.

So far, Colombia has acquired Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines through negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies and through the COVAX mechanism of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The foregoing may change in the medium term, due to the leadership of the Ministry of Health, with the accompaniment of ProColombia and other national entities, who have established relationships with international pharmaceutical firms with the aim of resuming local production of vaccines and biologicals and guarantee the sanitary sovereignty of the country.

As a result, ProColombia has already contacted nine multinationals interested in developing vaccine filling and packaging operations in a first stage and, subsequently, producing them in the country. Some of these firms have made several on-site visits to the South American country.

“The National Government's commitment with the vaccination process includes making Colombia a regional hub for the development, production, finishing and packaging of vaccines, with the support of international pharmaceutical companies. At ProColombia, we are committed to attracting foreign investment that allows us to guarantee the pharmaceutical safety of our country, and a prompt and safe economic recovery”, says Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia. “This objective is supported by the advancements that Colombia has been developing through the new Vaccine Law, promoted by President Iván Duque, and the legal and tax incentives that Colombia offers for attracting investments and donations to scientific and technological development in our territory”, she added.

For example, income taxpayers who directly or indirectly make investments or donations to projects classified as research and technological development shall have the right to deduct 100% of them from their net income in the fiscal year in which they are made. Additionally, 25% of the value invested in these projects can be deducted in the fiscal year the investment was made.

President Iván Duque has reiterated the need for the country to regain its autonomy in the face of local vaccine production that ceased back in 1999. One of the nine firms recently contacted has already a green light to proceed.

An agreement was signed between the Canadian multinational Providence and the Colombian company Vaxthera, stating that the construction of a production facility — located in Rionegro,

Antioquia— will begin shortly and the first batches of vaccines are expected to be ready in June 2022. In addition to the biologicals for Covid-19, doses against other pathologies will be produced and, in the medium term, they will be distributed to other markets in the region.

It is also worth highlighting the memorandum of understanding signed with Sinovac in August 2021, which opened new possibilities for vaccine filling processes and a feasible production in the country. In addition, there has been an ongoing conversation with the Chinese firm Walvax Biotechnology Co, which recently visited Bogotá exploring options to produce biologicals in Colombia. And, in a recent Health Mission organized by ProColombia India, opportunities with Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech and Gennova Biopharmaceuticals have been reviewed.

Firms from other pharmaceutical houses are also making progress in the development of phase 2/3 clinical studies for making Covid-19 vaccines in Colombia.

In Bogotá, for example, a recent partnership has been celebrated between the biotechnology company INOVIO and the National Government, with the aim of strengthening the efforts to combat the pandemic and endemic threat represented by Covid-19 and ensure a better response for future public health emergencies.

This agreement creates a framework of mutual support under which this multinational and the Government plan to explore the exchange of knowledge, the granting of technology licenses, and the creation of capacities that stimulate the development and production of vaccines and other biopharmaceutical products in Colombia.

The regulations of the Health Security Strategy of the Ministry of Health are about to be established in a legal document of the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES), which will be published early next year.

Why Colombia is the next pharmaceutical HUB of Latin America?

· The country’s domestic consumer market and comprehensive healthcare system, along with health clusters and established clinical research companies make Colombia an attractive, high-quality investment destination for this sector.

· Colombia has a stable and attractive health system. With a population of 50 million, it is the third most populous country in Latin America (after Mexico and Brazil), and 95% of the population is insured under the General Social Security Health System.

· Colombia has been selected as an export hub to take advantage of current trade agreements with the leading pharmaceutical multinationals. About 25% of Colombian exports from the pharmaceutical sector are made by multinational companies.

· Major pharmaceutical companies carrying out studies in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic have chosen Colombia for clinical research due to its demographic diversity and the quality of its clinical research centers.

· Large multinational companies in the pharmaceutical sector have already selected Colombia as their ideal investment destination. These include companies such as Pfizer, Sanofi, Abbott, Fresenius Medical Care, and Merk Sharp & Dome.