Japan biotech firm Takara Bio plans to begin contract production of mRNA vaccine in January

Takara Bio Inc. announced Thursday that it will start the contract manufacturing of the drug substance for vaccines using messenger RNA at its factory in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, in January next year.

While other companies in Japan have manufactured mRNA vaccine against the novel coronavirus on a trial basis, Takara Bio will be the first to establish a contract manufacturing base capable of mass production.

The move is expected to boost Japan’s ability to source a stable supply of COVID-19 vaccine domestically.

Takara Bio has agreed to manufacture what is known as the API (active pharmaceutical ingredient) for a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by VLP Therapeutics Japan, a pharmaceutical start-up in Tokyo. VLP aims to commercialize the vaccine by the end of next year in cooperation with Fujifilm Corp.

Japan has already approved mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which are said to be highly effective in preventing severe illness from the novel coronavirus.

Takara Bio’s new manufacturing base is expected to be able to produce the equivalent of 12 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine annually.

Going forward, Takara Bio has indicated that it intends to ramp up its contract manufacturing business, with a focus on gene therapy drugs and vaccines.

The company plans to convert its existing facilities in Kusatsu for the production of the mRNA vaccine next January.