Lonza has denied reports it has signed a deal with the South African government to build a $210m (€159m) API plant, saying it is merely “in discussions” over plans.
Last week, a press release from the South African government said it had finalised an alliance with the Swiss contract manufacturer to build the country’s first ARV (anti-retroviral) active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) facility.
The report claimed that Lonza would put up $65m for the project whilst state-funded institutions would provide about $130m.
However Lonza’s media relations chief Dominik Werner told in-PharmaTechnologist the firm is just in talks with the administration.
He said that although a deal – which could cut the cost of HIV medication in South Africa – is on the cards, nothing is yet solid.
“We are in discussions and negotiations with the government. However, no contracts have been signed yet,” he said.
When we asked Werner what stake Lonza would have in the proposed joint venture, named Ketlaphela, he said that ongoing transactions mean that details cannot be disclosed.
He did however confirm that state-owned drug maker Pelchem is also in on the discussions.
“The joint venture would involve Pelchem, a subsidiary of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, and Lonza,” he said.
Contrary to Lonza’s stance on the deal, the South African government’s statement was confident the deal had been completed.
A spokesperson said it was keen to launch the news to the media as potential partners are currently in the region. “We agreed to make the announcement today following the Cabinet decision because the international partners are visiting South Africa at the moment,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added: “The project is in line with plans of the South African government to address HIV and AIDS through the local and cost effective production of antiretroviral drugs.”
Werner did admit that, if the partnership proceeds, it would boost the “security of supply in the area, and would provide local capacity to meet future growth in demand”.