It takes years to build up vaccine production

In Austria there is a lot of discussion about setting up vaccine production. But that would come too late for the current pandemic, says Philipp von Lattorff, President of the Association of the Austrian Pharmaceutical Industry (Pharmig). Because even where there is already a suitable infrastructure, it would take two years before a vaccine can be produced. A plant on the green field would probably take five to six years.

Von Lattorff points out that, for example, the Pfizer vaccine ultimately needs 290 components to be vaccinated in the patient. “You can’t manufacture everything in Austria anyway,” said von Lattorff, General Director of Boehringer Ingelheim RCV. “If so, it’s a European thing” to produce a vaccine. In any case, one should try to produce as much as possible in Europe. In order to achieve a result quickly, priority should be given to expanding the plants where vaccine is already being manufactured.

If Austria wants to play a part in the sector, von Lattorff would recommend expanding research in this direction. “In my opinion that would be the most attractive and realistic thing we can do”. But that would be a preparation for future pandemics and not a short-term solution. Austria is already funding research very efficiently and generously, as von Lattorff emphasizes. This enables him to repeatedly guide large research projects within the Boehringer Ingelheim group to Vienna.

For successful research, it is crucial to bring the best minds to Vienna. It is less about the fee for the researchers than about the framework conditions for their work. Boehringer Ingelheim was only able to bring the later award-winning researcher Elly Tanaka to the IMP in Vienna because her request for an aquarium for 2,000 axolotls (Mexican amphibians) with separate cells for each specimen – and a few other conditions – was fulfilled , told by Lattorff.

As a rule, Vienna is more interesting for the “rising stars”, the really big names are difficult to attract to Vienna. The French researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier, who would later receive the Nobel Prize for the invention of the gene scissors, was also employed as a “Rising Star” in Vienna at Max F. Perutz Laboratories (MFPL). Today she would probably not come to Vienna anymore, so von Lattorff.

Boehringer Ingelheim itself is not researching vaccines, but has an antibody treatment against corona in the pipeline. Nevertheless, his company was approached by the Russian manufacturers of the Sputnik V corona vaccine as to whether they could produce it. “They are extremely aggressive and were with us too,” said von Lattorff. They found out exactly what Boehringer Ingelheim could offer in Vienna, but then realized that “we can’t do it”. The representatives of Sputnik V also went to Italy, France, Germany and tried to get production going everywhere.

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