NI pharma firm Almac’s role in Covid-19 vaccine

Almac, the Northern Ireland pharmaceutical firm, is playing a role in the clinical trials of the first effective Covid-19 vaccine.

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech said preliminary results showed it can prevent more than 90% of people from getting the virus. Almac’s clinical services division provides clinical trials support to BioNTech. It involves things like distribution, labelling and temperature management. The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries. It has to be kept in ultra-cold storage at below minus 80C – Almac’s hardware and software is used to maintain this temperature requirement.

‘Proud and privileged’

Almac’s global Vice President of Operations, Donna Christopher, who led the project for the firm, said she was “proud and privileged” to support the clinical study. Almac, which has its headquarters in Craigavon, County Armagh, employs about 5,600 people.

Aside from its operations in Northern Ireland, the firm also has major facilities in the Republic of Ireland, England and the US (HQ in Souderton, PA). Almac develops its own drugs but a major part of its business is is manufacturing products and conducting tests for big global firms. The firm says it it working with a variety of other pharmaceutical, biotech and research institutions to support over 80 separate research projects into Covid-19 treatment options.

Vaccines for NI

On Tuesday, it emerged that Northern Ireland was likely to receive about 570,000 doses of the new coronavirus vaccine. As each recipient requires two doses, this would mean 285,000 people could potentially be vaccinated for Covid-19. The local supply will be part of a UK order and distributed among the regions using the Barnett Formula, the Department of Health told BBC News NI. Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann said that while the vaccine was good news, it still needed to officially pass phase three of its trials and be authorised by the regulator.

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