NZ-first vaccine filling machine nears completion, could boost vaccine supply

Wave

RNZ, Auckland, NZ, 13 August 2021

An Auckland-based biotechnology company says its New Zealand-first vaccine filling machine is on target for completion in Germany, and will potentially boost Covid-19 vaccine supply not only in New Zealand but globally.

Last year, BioCell was being allocated $3 million from the government to upgrade its facilities as part of the country’s Covid-19 vaccine strategy and the money was used to help secure the machine.

BioCell chief executive Nidish Nair said the automated machine, which puts liquid into little bottles, ensured both accuracy and sterility and could fill up to 100 million doses a year.

“This is an excellent piece of machine and is being designed and manufactured by the same company that has supplied filling machines to the companies that are filling the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines,” he said.

Final assembly was being carried out at the moment and the machine would move into “factory acceptance testing” to prove that it met specification, Nair said.

It was expected to be ready for shipping in October.

“This is quite a significant milestone for New Zealand because what it does is enable us to move to the next league where we are producing not just for New Zealand and Pacific islands but for the greater international community … we are quite excited about this.”

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment confirmed that as far as it was aware, the machine would be “the only machine in New Zealand of this capacity intended for human vaccine filling”.

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said in a statement: “I’m thrilled to see that our investment in Biocell is paying off and that our Covid-19 vaccine strategy is taking yet another step forward.

“While there is still some way to go this automated vaccine filling machine has the potential to future proof our ability to deal with pandemics.”