Zendal announced that the unit will be completed in December 2021 and will be available for manufacturing vaccines from that time. At this stage it is a very interesting and very important investment decision for Portugal to place the country as a vaccine exporter for the first time in many years, which we were not until this investment decision.
Zendal has an agreement with Novavax, which currently has a vaccine against Covid-19 in clinical trials. Has Portugal also made contacts with Pifzer, Moderna and AstreZeneca, whose vaccines are already in use?
Yes, it is public that Zendal has the opportunity to produce Novavax. I remember the vaccine is still in clinical trials, but it’s one of the companies that already has a pre-contract with the European Union – that’s very positive. Portugal receives vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca under the European protocol. contacts [com estas três empresas]Yes, we made contact – from the perspective of diplomatic channels – to show Portugal not only as an investment area, but also so that Portuguese companies can participate in the value chains of these entities as part of the understanding of the chains.
Is it possible that this will happen in 2020?
This topic is not just about vaccines. With the opening of these companies, we are continuing to study the possibilities of cooperation between Portugal and these companies. This is on the table, processes that I believe will evolve in a broader investment framework between 2021 and 2022. But I can’t and shouldn’t achieve anything special.
What other negotiations are in progress?
We contacted various companies – more than once. Show the potential of our pharmaceutical and healthcare device cluster. We have chosen this continuous approach from country to country. There are more than 40 companies from 11 different countries. In this respect, we discover opportunities for joint work. These possibilities range from waste centers and competence centers to evaluating Portuguese units with installed production capacity that can respond to the demand aspects of these companies.
In other words, isn’t Portugal’s contribution to fighting the pandemic limited to vaccines?
We have opened many areas beyond vaccines for Covid-19, even though the pandemic was an opportunity to show our skills. I think we often don’t appreciate what we’ve already done. I’ll give you three examples: We have a Portuguese company in the pharmaceuticals sector, GenIbet, who worked with Moderna on the development of the vaccine. We have a company like Medinfar that has developed a serological test that can be used to assess the population’s immunity levels over time. This will be central to the application of vaccination. We had a Nordic logistics company [APP Thermal] This was developed with Pfizer transport solutions for vaccines that require a temperature of -70 ° C. Our contribution goes well beyond vaccines. I would say that we are present in many different phases of the value chain: In research and development, in logistics, we will fill vaccines with Zendal, we are in serological tests, in pharmaceuticals. Our participation in this struggle is much broader besides the companies that started making masks and this is our calling card in these contacts with pharmaceutical companies.
When describing all of these stages, do you identify vaccine production as the next target?
We took this step, believing that everything will go well with Zendal’s investment in Paredes de Coura. I want to underline that. Portugal did not have a unit in the process of mass vaccine production like this project. If Portugal achieves this achievement by the end of this year, it will be part of the vaccine production chain. It’s a technology that is there in the fight against Covid-19, but will be there for other viruses as well.
Do you think that once the Novavax vaccine production begins, the door will open for other manufacturers to test the Portuguese potential?
We want to signal Portugal to these pharmaceutical companies as an excellent place for research, clinical trials and the manufacture of medicines.
In other words, keep that investment here long after the Covid-19 …
Fortunately, covid-19 won’t be the beginning – not even the end – of our cluster in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries. We have worked a lot with this industry over the past few years and there is a lot to be done to make it more robust in Portugal. Now we have to appreciate the framework we have and the fact that Portugal will be included in the process after Zendal’s investment. But we have to go beyond that, the future is to have a larger production of pharmaceutical products in Portugal, that is the goal.
There is currently a problem with the supply of vaccines across the European Union. Do you think Portugal can present itself as a solution?
From the point of view of filling capacity, we would have capacity and some solutions – always with adjustments, of course. But I think the main problem is access to raw materials. This ability to have very specific raw materials for making these vaccines is an issue where it is necessary to develop very specific skills. In order to increase the level of production in the future – and when I say “in the future” I am not even saying for 2021, but for the coming years – these companies have to strictly consider supply chains. And then we have the option, even when it comes to producing in 2022, 2023 or 2024 – in a logic of continuity – those companies that are now feeling a certain amount of strangulation will have to think about investments. This is where we position ourselves and want to continue working.
Will you attract this investment in the medium term?
Clear. Often times, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the entire vaccine, or that we are in the last part of the vaccination process, or that we are not even in the vaccine. However, this means that we have to use Portugal as an alternative when reorganizing the supply chains.