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Grand Rapids pharmaceutical manufacturer partnering with Johnson & Johnson on COVID-19 vaccine COURTESY PHOTO

Grand Rapids pharmaceutical manufacturer partnering with Johnson & Johnson on COVID-19 vaccine

BY Tuesday, September 29, 2020 12:57pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing Inc. will produce a COVID-19 vaccine under development by a Belgian pharmaceutical company.

Under an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. — which is owned by New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson — Grand River Aseptic will fill and finish the vaccine candidate that’s now in a Phase 3 clinical trial.

“Should their vaccine candidate be approved, the opportunity to serve the population with a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic alongside Johnson & Johnson is an extraordinary privilege,” Grand River Aseptic President and CEO Tom Ross said. “Our team is enthusiastic, dedicated and focused on supporting Johnson & Johnson in the fight against COVID-19.”

Johnson & Johnson’s clinical trial involves up to 60,000 volunteers at nearly 215 sites in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health. The trial will study the safety and efficacy of a single vaccine dose compared to a placebo in preventing COVID-19, according to a Sept. 23 announcement by Johnson & Johnson.

Johnson & Johnson expects to have the vaccine ready and available for emergency use in early 2021 “if proven to be safe and effective.”

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing (GRAM) would produce the vaccine at its new $60 million, 60,000-square-foot facility that opened this summer near downtown Grand Rapids.

The company in August was awarded a $160 million federal contract to produce a new vaccine for COVID-19 once it’s available.

Under the contract with the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of Health and Human Services, GRAM’s production and distribution capacity would support getting a vaccine or COVID-19 therapeutics to market through what’s known as Operation Warp Speed.

In announcing the agreement with Johnson & Johnson, GRAM said teams from both companies “are working diligently to transfer the manufacturing process to GRAM’s new, state-of-the-art facility, and are swiftly preparing for the start of vaccine production.”

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