Aspen extends rally following announcement of vaccine deals

Aspen shares extended their rally after the chief executive officer of Africa’s largest drugmaker said it has agreed to deals to produce more vaccines and other treatments for diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Technical transfer projects have started with four multinational customers for these drugs, CEO Stephen Saad said in an interview Wednesday. He declined to give further details of who is purchasing the products from the company.

The drugmaker raised its forecast for sales from its existing unused sterile manufacturing lines almost threefold to at least R8 billion as it reported first-half results.

By next year, Aspen anticipates receiving R2 billion from the use of available sterile manufacturing capacity, with this contribution doubling by 2025.

The shares rose as much as 8.6% on Thursday and were trading 5.6% higher by mid-morning. That boosts their two-day gain to 20%, the most in almost three years. Wednesday’s jump in the stock was the biggest since January 2000.

Aspen is seeking to make the most of under-utilized production capacity after it set up the ability to produce its own-branded Covid-19 vaccine, only for orders to dry up.

Making those shots was always seen as a stepping stone toward developing other profitable product lines, a transition the company is now accelerating, Saad said.

“We are very focused on filling this capacity and with a lot more urgency than we thought we needed because of what’s happened with the Covid vaccines,” Saad said. 

The company’s technical transfer project with the Serum Institute of India to make and distribute four Aspen-branded vaccines in Africa is also well advanced and orders are expected in the first six months of next year, Saad said. 

In the meantime, grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has helped to partially offset the related costs.