On 23 November the Federal Minister of Health reserved at least 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by IDT Biologika in association with the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). Dessau and IDT are players in the global league for vaccine research and production, emphasized the Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn on a visit to the site.
Developed at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, IDT Biologika has established a special procedure for large-scale production of the vaccine in Dessau, with the vaccine currently in the first phase of clinical testing since the beginning of October. Phase II is set to begin at the end of the year, the third and final phase in mid-2021, says IDT CEO Dr. Jürgen Betzing. He expects to be able to apply for fast-track approval at the end of the coming year.
In view of the current successes reported, that still seems a long way off. However, the partners are not concerned with being the fastest. Effectiveness and safety are paramount – and these could be the particular strengths of the so-called MVA vector vaccine. Because it is based on a vaccine platform for which extensive clinical data have been available for decades and that is already in use, for example in a smallpox vaccine approved in Europe, Canada and the USA. MVA is regarded as especially safe and free from side effects, including for high-risk groups such as older people or patients with chronic illnesses.
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, who visited IDT Biologika on 23 November together with Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Dr. Reiner Haseloff, praised the commitment and performance of IDT. He thanked the numerous employees for their input in particular. “We are increasingly and positively surprised by IDT. Dessau is a place known to many around the world. Perhaps more than we think,” said Spahn. The 30 million euros that have now been agreed – as with the 113 million euro research funding for the company and its research partners approved at the beginning of October – are not a gift, but an investment in the future. In the fight against corona it is important not to place all hopes in one technology, one company or one research team.
“I am certain that not only can we fight the virus, we can also defeat it,” added an optimistic Prime Minister Dr. Reiner Haseloff. With its over 100 years of experience and the combination of research, development and production unique of its kind in Germany, IDT can make an important contribution to this. As a state politician, since 2002 he has been watching the family-run company grow – thanks above all to the investments of the Klocke family, represented at the visit by principal shareholder Carsten Klocke.
Dr. Betzing pointed out that the 440 million euros invested in the site since 1993 will soon be followed by further investment. The production of active ingredients is to be expanded, visual inspection will receive the addition of a fully-automatic unit and a second state-of-the-art high-speed filling unit will enable the manufacture of an additional 32,000 injection bottles per hour from 2023. A total of 80 million euros are currently earmarked for this expansion. The current crisis has shown that countries cannot successfully go it alone, says Betzing. However, each nation needs to make its contribution to the whole at European level. This calls for complex infrastructures and expertise. Both of these are to be found in Dessau. “We see ourselves as responsible for equipping the site to deal with pandemics – not only relating to the corona efforts, but also future pandemics.” He hopes to persuade national and European decision makers to partner the company in this role and is subsequently very pleased with the early and intensive involvement of the federal ministries of research and health.
“We are living in difficult times,” says Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn. “But the key message to take from today is: there is a path out of this crisis – and together we are making very good progress along that path.”