The Trump administration has signed a $138 million deal with a company that makes inexpensive prefilled syringes while seeking to ramp up the national capacity for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The Health and Human Services and Defense departments are partnering with ApiJect Systems America, which makes prefilled syringes that are designed to be used in developing countries, reports NBC News, for a public-private initiative called Project Jumpstart.
The partnership's goal is to facilitate the production of 100 million prefilled syringes by the end of this year and for more than 500 million more syringes in 2021, if a vaccine is developed and approved.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews commented that the project will "significantly decrease" the country's dependence on offshore supply chains and older technologies. The devices are to be made in the United States, and plans are already underway to retrofit facilities that produce eyedrops and similar items. ApiJect is also raising money to build new plants, to increase the syringe productions.
Typically, vaccines are sent out in small glass vials, which require using a syringe to draw out the vaccine. ApiJect, however, skips that step with easy-to-produce plastic syringes.
“Nobody has ever used an injectable prefilled syringe made of plastic in the tens of millions or even in the millions, because nobody had ever figured out how to attach a needle to a plastic-filled container with a drug,” ApiJect CEO Jay Walker told NBC News. “The technology to attach the two is the key to the uniqueness of what HHS saw we had solved.”
The device has a needle that is easy to attach to a container described as being similar to an eyedropper. Walker said the syringes cost less than $1 each to produce, making them far less expensive to produce than other prefilled syringes or glass vials.
The device consists of an easy-to-attach needle and a plastic single-use container similar to ones used for eyedrops. The plastic syringes are made through a “Blow-Fill-Seal” manufacturing process, used in high-volume production for pharmaceutical grade products.
The deal comes after HHS in March announced a $456 million grant had been awarded to ApiJect to research and develop the syringes.
Production is expected to start this October.
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